Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Canadian Looks at US Politics

Here is a bit from an article by Linda McQuaig in the Toronto Star:
Back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan launched his campaign for a right-wing revolution in America, David Koch was a disgruntled billionaire who thought Reagan wasn’t far enough to the right.

Today, Koch is still a disgruntled billionaire and still convinced the Reagan revolution hasn’t gone nearly far enough in cutting taxes on the rich, dismantling the welfare state and gutting government controls on business.

But today, as Americans vote in their mid-term elections, Koch is no longer in the political wilderness. After pumping more than $100 million into arch-conservative political organizations over the past 30 years, he (and billionaire brother Charles) now appear close to pushing U.S. politics significantly further to the right — even though the wealthy elite is already richer and more powerful today than it’s been since the 1920s.

Through their Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers have micromanaged the rise of the purportedly grassroots Tea Party movement, as documented in a recent article by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker.


But today’s Tea Partiers are fighting for the elite. It’s hard to get much higher up the establishment food chain than the Koch brothers, who through their ownership of oil giant Koch Industries, have a combined fortune of $35 billion.

All this is a sharp departure from the upheaval that followed the 1929 financial crash. Spurred on by a furious public that held Wall Street responsible for that crash, Franklin Roosevelt’s administration introduced sweeping changes that significantly reduced the power and wealth of the very rich.

Signalling a new labour-friendly era in 1935 with the far-reaching Fair Labor Relations Act, Roosevelt also brought in tough laws on banking and pushed up the top marginal tax rate on very high incomes, eventually to 88 per cent.

Unions flourished in the decades that followed, as gains made by the leading union, the United Auto Workers, helped push up wages across the country, creating a prosperous and politically influential middle class.

Today the right is managing to direct public anger against unions and government social programs.

... living in splendour befitting kings, the Koch brothers quietly supervise an incoherently angry army that promises to gut what’s left of benefits for the poor while adding to the bonanza of billionaires.
It is horrifying to watch what is going on in the US. But it has happened before. The McCarthy years were a time of crazy anti-communism that ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocents. The Nixon election on a "secret plan" to end the war in Vietnam was another significant lurch to the right. The Reagan "morning in America" which spelled the death knell for unions. And the "war of choice" of George Bush which have bankrupted the US. It is a long history of grotesqueries which the voting public just doesn't see. They get sold the same "fear and anger" campaigns again and again. Meanwhile, the country has lurched from being the richest, happiest, best educated, well-governed country in the world to a rancid cesspit of recrimination, hate, fear, and greed. And today the Republicans will take yet another giant leap deeper into this horror story as they will tote up election "victories".

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