Waiting for that opportunity to become a part of the “American dream”? I’ve got some unsettling news for you.
I’ve recently listened to and read the transcript of the phone conversation of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and who he thought is one of his biggest campaign donors, billionaire David Koch. For those who are not familiar with Mr. Koch and his equally filthy rich brother Charles, they inherited a company owned by their stupendously rich father Fred C. Koch which has now grown into a multi-national corporation that by it’s own accounting “is a diverse group of companies and is one of the largest private companies in America according to Forbes magazine.” Did I mention they were all very, very rich?
I have nothing against rich people though some may think so who read this. I would like to be comfortably wealthy too so I could simply have just one nice home, cars with titles free and clear and a savings account that reflects I have enough to send my kids to some of the better colleges this country has to offer, along with every other amenity wealth affords. What I am against is when people who have vast fortunes and more money than they really need is to have the influence they do with people in positions of power to insure that their wealth is not tampered with; in fact are assured that it will grow with very little risk to them. Theoretically at least these people in elected office are supposed to represent us all equally. (Get that sarcastic grin off of your face)
The Koch brothers are members of that elite club. A complete list of their properties can be found on their website and a list of their political associations can be found on this executive summary report from the environmental watchdog group, Greenpeace. For anyone to think that they don’t use their vast wealth to sustain their self-interests would be naive. So what has this to do with Governor Walker and the events occurring in Madison where union workers are picketing the capital? It is but one clear example of who really owns this country.
It doesn’t matter if you are in line with David Koch’s social or political values or not. And anyone who tries to make the argument that the wealthy create jobs for the rest us, you might want to check out this study that reveals that “most U.S. and foreign corporations doing business in the United States avoid paying any federal income taxes” while our paychecks are tagged for taxes at about 20-25% on average. Those jobs they create are really the means to keep a government afloat that provides large subsidies to wealthy corporations by their workers. For any poor sap who believes that “the people” have political power in this country, that phone call to the most powerful man in Wisconsin from his biggest campaign contributor ought to put and end to that silly notion. Why?
First, the fact that anyone could get to the governor that easy and that quick is never going to happen, if it happens at all, with who BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg referred to as “the small people”. And no, he wasn’t referring to dwarfs. Even Democratic State Senator Tim Carpenter said Walker was “hard-lined—will not talk, will not communicate, will not return phone calls.”
Second, the excited tone of the Governor’s voice that reflected a certain amount of glee as he talked “shop” with the billionaire. The pretend-Koch made several disparaging remarks about some of the Governor’s constituency while Walker displayed empathy to such arrogant comments. Within this conversation were comments by Walker that alluded to notions of criminal violations against the protesters (“planting some trouble makers” amongst the peaceful demonstrators) and ethical violations where he appeared to be willing to accept an invitation for a luxury junket with Koch who offered to fly him to “Cali” after all this was done and “really show [him] a good time.”
The fact that neither of these occurred or are now not likely to occur doesn’t diminish the fact that the Governor of Wisconsin was of the mind to be a willing participant of them both.
And third, the statements that reflected an intent to diminish “small people’s” power, what little they had in comparison to the Kochs of this world. The fact that an elected official was talking in terms outside his own state about bringing down unions displays a willingness to go along with the desires of wealthy corporate magnates to eliminate their foes – the people they hire and fire as they see fit as it determines their bottom line.
It’s no secret that men of wealth have always had close ties with our elected officials who between them promote policy and legislation that creates greater wealth for the private businessman. But here of late it seems to be done more boldly and in the shadow of the greatest economic disaster brought on by some of the wealthiest people in the world; where millions have lost their jobs and health care benefits, their homes and most of their savings as a consequence.
Rolling Stone reporter Mike Taibbi wrote a blistering account of how cavalierly the CEOs of the world’s largest financial institutions and some of their executives engaged in criminal activity for profit’s sake and not a single one served jail time for it. While people were thrown out of their homes because of predatory lending habits by many of these financial giants, the bonuses that many at the top of this wealth ladder were receiving were all-time records. And yet a 2009 survey by global audit, tax and advisory consultants, Grant Thornton, showed that only 26% of financial services companies planned to increase hiring during this period.
Along with Taibbi’s report is one from Mother Jones reporter Kevin Drum that reveals through a study by Princeton political science professor Larry Bartel, that neither Republican OR Democrats “respond at all to the desires of voters with modest incomes. At all.” It appears instead that their attention is devoted to the top wealthiest 1% who today possess 24 percent of the nation’s income while most worker’s paychecks have remained stagnant or even decreased, including higher premiums for their health care coverage or total loss of such benefits.
The only logical conclusion one can draw from all of this is reflected in a skit the late George Carlin did where he blasted “the real owners of this country”. In the skit Carlin points out that not only do the big wealthy business owners own it all – land, the Congress, state legislatures, judges and the media outlets – they want more. “What they don’t want, Carlin says “is a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking”.
What comes home to roost here in Carlin’s comments in regards to the phone conversation Walker had was how corporate business owners and their CEOs want “obedient workers”. Those people Carlin says who are willing to “passively accept all these increasing shittier jobs, with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now they’re coming for your Social Security money.”
Do you really think this is just all about a few thousand “over-paid” public union workers in Wisconsin? If so, I have a deal on some luxurious property in natural botanical garden settings in Death Valley. Not only have unions enabled ALL American workers to garner livable wages in times past but they can be credited with the 40-hour week, workplace safety, paid days off, a two-day weekend, the minimum wage and all those vital health care benefits that every American worker now enjoys, union and non-union alike.
As the power of the wealthiest 1% grows, the more insignificant everyone else becomes in how things affect us and our futures. When people like David Koch can access and influence the means to impact our wages, the environment, public health and whether our kids go to college or sent off to some foreign land to protect their financial interests there, we are no longer living the American dream. We are a merely a part of someone else’s.
- Right-Wing Group Funded By the Kochs Ratchets Up Interference in Wisconsin Uprising (alternet.org)
- Dave Johnson: What Is The Real Agenda Of The Budget-Cutters? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Scott Walker is nothing but another Sock Monkey Jerk for the Rich (iflizwerequeen.com)