Category Archives: Democracy

The End of Democracy – The Koch Brothers

Did you watch Rachel Maddow last night? She followed the bucks and the negative Health Care ads, appearing both nationally and in some states, to two groups, the Foundation for Government Accountability (sounds quite official and serious doesn’t it) and the State Policy Network (which also sounds like it is part of actual government). Apparently neither of these groups has any connection whatsoever to either our federal government or the governments of our state. In spite of their ad hoc roots these two groups are traveling around America serving as witnesses against the ACA in states where there might be a bit of wiggle room, where a state may be considering signing on to the expanded Medicaid that is part of the ACA (the part that gives insurance to the uninsured). They post internet ads that suggest that signing on to Obama’s health care act will get you in tax trouble. They have another site which attempts to get the residents in the states where they operate to sign a Grover- Norquist-style pledge that says they will never sign up for health care.

Once the money trail was unraveled it led to those billionaire Koch (pronounced coke) brothers who have more money than the rest of Americans-who-are-not in-the-top-1% combined. These brothers who inherited their money from the oil and chemical industry established by their Daddy are solid backers and play-callers in the right wing of the Republican Party. They have their fingers in just about every one of those “we-are-the-true-Patriots pies”.

We have long suspected that our country is not controlled by the American people. We have suspected that monied people (who now include corporations, since corporations are people) call the tunes that our elected “representatives” march to. From time to time proof of meddling has been offered up to us by one party or another and we are temporarily shocked. Then we shake it off and move on. But the machinations of these two brothers seem to be similar to the tentacles of a jelly fish which has twined its way throughout all aspects of our government. The right wing Conservatives don’t just have lots of organizations working to make sure their policies become part of American governance, but these organizations talk to each other. They are not isolated entities. In fact most of them have, at the top, a few names of very rich sponsors, and almost all of them have been traced to the Koch brothers.

How can the average American fight a steamrolling, bankrolling political machine like this? How can we counteract the influence of wealthy power-brokers on our states and on our federal government?  If you add up all the issues that we the people favor by over 50% (issues like immigration laws, gun control laws, laws to raise the minimum wage and more), issues we favor actually by over 60%, and then see how many of these issues are being taken care of by our Congress, you can see how much power “we the people” actually wield. If anyone needs to “take back our government” it is “we, the people”, but I guess you can see why we feel terribly out-gunned (double meaning intended) and out-maneuvered and out-classed (meaning out-spent, since class equals money in America). How on earth can we root out this pernicious patch of weeds that has spread out like a giant taproot under America? It all feels pretty hopeless. Obamacare is the only thing we have apparently gotten past these people and they are mad (and yes, mad is the correct word here); they want vengeance; they will do anything to stop this law from becoming a successful part of the social safety net in America. Obama did an end run around these secret manipulators, he mowed the grass, and that is not allowed. One thing we can do, therefore, against these rich polluters is support the Affordable Care Act; be patient about its roll-out; sign up for it as soon as we get a chance. We could also repeat over and over again how we want Congress to approve Obama’s court nominees. We can insist that the minimum wage should be raised. I don’t know if we can have much effect on immigration or gun control right now because these bills have very entrenched enemies, but there are probably some other areas where we can be a big, old, nasty, squeaky wheel. Can we win out over all this money? The outlook is not good, but if we just lie down and play dead that may be the end of Democracy.

The last graphic was drawn by Muckety and reproduced in the Daily Kos

This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at

Rebutting Mr. Peterfly

Thomas Peterfly has an ad on TV which is also available as a video on the internet. He is associated with Interactive Brokers and Freedom to Succeed. He accepts responsibility for the contents of the ad which is all about how America is on the slippery slope to becoming a Socialist nation because so many people are becoming dependent on the government for assistance. This is clearly a page from the book the Republicans have been writing because rich people are feeling put upon. They are contributing far more to taxes that our budget relies on, they say, than the other 99% of Americans, and their monies are paying for other Americans to be idle.
Mr. Peterfly tells us that he grew up in a Socialist nation and that this is why he can see what is happening when we cannot. However, it is just possible that he is focusing on fears from his own experience that are not appropriate in America. It is a good thing for people to be ambitious and to strive for the American Dream and if some have given up on this perhaps it is because they have found it too hard, or they have already failed at a few attempts to be successful. Making them jump in the deep end without water wings may produce a eureka moment and turn them into successful little engines of Capitalism, but they could just as easily drown.
I don’t believe that it is honest to pass off a man full of fears that he acquired in a different culture, and who has every reason to believe the “bogey” man has followed him to America, as someone with a realistic view of America. We are not a Socialist nation. Big government has not turned us into a Socialist nation. We are not going to be a nation where unregulated Capitalism is the order of the day either. If the American people choose to spend the money of the American people to help the poorest among us then that is our right in a Democracy. If a majority of people say they no longer want to spend money this way, then that will also have to pertain.
 But in this case, the people at the top, who are clearly a minority of citizens want to have a say proportional to the amount of money they feel that they contribute. This is not how America works, although if they really are paying so much then adjustments may have to be made. And while they may be paying more money, they are not paying a larger percentage of their money. Perhaps they are paying so much and the rest of us are paying so little because the economics of Capitalism and taxation and loopholes have gotten out of kilter in America. When all the wealth of a nation collects in the hands of a few it opens the door to hunger, disease, and unrest. It is also the exact recipe for revolution. (I am not making a threat, just an observation based on history.) It gives an advantage to a culture when the rich are willing to contribute to civil society. If we have too many “freeloaders” at the bottom then our government or our private sector needs to study why that is so and come up with ways to reverse the trend. As to whether or not we are becoming a Socialist nation, don’t ask a man who grew up in a Socialist society. He will see his worst fears everywhere he goes. I like your ad Mr. Peterfly; it is well done but it is not necessarily true and just repeating it over and over does not make it so. I am sorry you have nightmares, but, America is in far more danger of becoming an oligarchy than it of becoming a Socialist state. Don’t worry, Mr. Peterfly, we’ll protect you. The love of freedom runs deep in America.

Note:   Mr. Peterfly got very wealthy in America. On the left at the top is a photo of Mr. Peterfly in full riding regalia. On the right is a picture of a blue collar Peterfly as he appears in his ad against Socialism. He is a member of the 1%.

In case you have not seen this ad, here’s the link:

Corporations Are Not People

Corporations are not people. I am terribly disappointed that the Supreme Court made the decision it did in the case of Citizens United. Corporations are set up by people, they are run by people, people work for corporations, people buy from corporations, and people profit from corporations; corporations, however, are a business entity, not a person. A person has a vote in a Democracy; a corporation does not. This decision was clearly about money and political funding. I truly believe that this is one of the most bizarre and inappropriate rulings I have ever heard about from a 20th century or, for that matter, a 21st century court, in any Democratic nation.

I further believe that this decision is proof that American Conservatives are exerting undue influence on politics in America through a well-planned set of strategies that have played a long game of stacking the deck in their favor. They also had the great good fortune to appoint a number of Supreme Court justices. If you look at the number of conservatives v. liberals, the balance is close, but if you look at the number of Roman Catholics the court is skewed. Fortunately, Obama was able to add two fairly liberal members to the court with the result that, rather than the questionable decision in Bush v. Gore, we got a pass on the Affordable Health Act (sort of). Too bad we cannot overturn Citizen’s United.
I have never believed that Obama is against corporations. But I do believe that Conservatives think that if they get rid of labor unions, if they lower the standard of living for the middle class in America, if they take America to the edge of financial disaster, if they get rid of pensions and health care, and if they undo laws that protect the environment by denying that environmental damage is having any serious effect on the earth’s climate, that they will be able to bring the corporations back to America and return us to the heady days of the 1890’s. They are having some surprising successes in achieving their agenda.
This is a difficult fight. We miss our affluence. We miss our jobs. However, look what we will have to give up to get them back. We are a nation that has chosen Capitalism as our economic engine. But we also know that Capitalism can be brutally single-minded in its pursuit of profits. We know Capitalist businessmen can abuse their employees and also the power they get from their profits. We learned the hard way about the need to regulate Capitalism. Perhaps we need to analyze those regulations, which may work in a prosperous economy, but hold business back when we need to stimulate growth. Perhaps some of the more onerous regulations can be relaxed. However waging a war on the middle class to lower its prosperity and make it more attractive for resourcing (I think that’s the term for bringing businesses back to America) is not worthy behavior in our Democracy.

Obama’s argument that “no man is an island”, that no business succeeds without the benefits it derives from government and consumers, was perhaps a bit too blunt and should have been accompanied by a more complete description of what Obama meant, but his argument is still true. Business cannot exist in a vacuum.

And last but not least, a government is not a business. A business has one goal which is to make profits. Government is about finances, yes, but it is also about social interaction, security; it is about the citizens who fund it and who rely on it to do the kinds of things that keep a society’s members healthy and productive and safe from exploitation. Our government, our Democracy, is a great government because it belongs to the people and the people get to take care of their own needs. Our American government may resemble a business in some ways, but it is not just a business. We all depend on it for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We do not expect to be strong-armed by a political party made up of a group of Americans who are determined to exert their will over the rest of us and will use any trick to hang on to the current rules that benefit the wealthiest among us. I think Conservative Republicans think that this is their moment. Let’s disabuse them of that notion.

We expect these two groups, Democrats and Republican, who hold such contrasting views at this moment, to work together so that we can avoid extreme policies and practices and arrive at a set of strategies acceptable to both groups that will help us pick a careful path to a prosperous future without giving up all the personal gains we have made. There is always that saying from Eastern philosophy which says “all roads lead home”, but what it doesn’t say is that some roads take the long way, and some roads have more obstacles and dangers. Let’s find the middle road, the one that unites us again as a nation with common goals for finding our new future together.