Republican elected officials have recently provided the nation, in quotes, with the exact ideology of their party. Here are a few examples:
From Representative Chris Collins on the tax cut bill: “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”
From Senator Chuck Grassley on the estate tax: “I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
Finally, Senator Orrin Hatch explaining how there is no money to fund children’s health care: “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”
That’s the state of our democracy in quotes. Now to how this relates to Nancy MacLean’s stunning Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.
Democracy in Chains reveals not only more about the Koch Brothers stealth war to further enrich themselves at our expense – their radical notion of “liberty” – but as importantly, the career of the Nobel winning economist/theorist/strategist who taught them how to do it: James Buchanan. His plan included not only a philosophy in which greed is celebrated as liberty but acknowledgement that Americans would reject the plutocrats’ scheme, necessitating a campaign of secrecy. The unpopularity of the libertarians' extreme goals required another strategic innovation developed by Buchanan: how to skew American rules away from majoritarian democracy.
The Buchanan-Koch plan calls for reducing the authority and reach of government programs meant to assist the middle class and poor, and to politically undermine those who seek to advocate on their behalf. Let’s see another quote on the tax bill from Stephen Moore, a Trump adviser:
They go after state and local taxes, which weakens public employee unions. They go after university endowments, and universities have become play pens of the left. And getting rid of the mandate is to eventually dismantle Obamacare.
Because the Buchanan-inspired and Koch-funded cadre recognizes the unpopularity of stripping aid to education, health care, Medicare, Social Security and other programs to support the public, its program has been carefully concealed, “crab-walked” and rolled out in incremental stages. When a program cannot be frontally attacked due to its popularity, the cadre instead offers means to “reform” it. The short term plan is to take territory bit by bit. The long term plan is complete devastation of the capacity for people to petition their government and for government to respond.
Buchanan and Koch bonded over their mutual passion to pursue the privatization of public education. (For my public university students, Buchanan had an endearing term for you: “parasites”). Buchanan had advocated the full privatization of education as far back as 1959; coincidentally as his state, Virginia, was shuttering public schools following the Brown decision and providing vouchers for private all-white schools. Buchanan and his intellectual ally Henry Manne, awash in Koch dollars at George Mason University in the late 90s, agreed that a top target should be education, ”the most socialized industry in the world” which nurtured “community values, many of which are inimical to a free society.”
The Republican tax bill has one offensive characteristic to the Koch Network: it could be repealed. So their organization is seeking a constitutional convention to enshrine their selfishness. Don’t just change the rulers, change the rules.
In future posts I’ll talk more about how the tactics and policy preferences promoted by the Kochs, as Jane Mayer explains in Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Radical Right, are coming to Massachusetts. For example, privatization advocates in Massachusetts have “weaponized philanthropy” by deploying their private charities to disseminate their ideas, build astroturf organizations, and prepare for elections. They have been “privatizing politics” by building plutocrat funded political organizations like Stand for Children Massachusetts, Massachusetts Parents United (whose state director held the same position at Families for Excellent Schools), and Banned-in-Boston Families for Excellent Schools. Finally as we saw in 2016, billionaires have acted as “secret sponsors” of “covert operations” to inject unlimited amounts of dark money to twist Massachusetts policy – against the wishes of the state’s citizens.
My fellow parasites, read Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, and you’ll gain a clearer insight into the Collins, Hatch, Grassley, Moore, and FES versions of democracy. And you’ll see a clearer insight into the future their ideological allies seek for Massachusetts.
The Washington Post recently adopted a new slogan: “Democracy dies in darkness.” I agree.
[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member. I write about dark money (and other things). I don't write about education policy.]