Thursday, October 07, 2010

The effort by the ultrawealthy to control America

Conservatism is a stalking horse for the political takeover of America by a few ultra-wealthy families. Here's how Paul Krugman describes it:
As Politico recently pointed out, every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who isn’t currently holding office and isn’t named Mitt Romney is now a paid contributor to Fox News. Now, media moguls have often promoted the careers and campaigns of politicians they believe will serve their interests. But directly cutting checks to political favorites takes it to a whole new level of blatancy.

Arguably, this shouldn’t be surprising. Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paychecks for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defenses of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultra wealthy families.

And these organizations have long provided havens for conservative political figures not currently in office. Thus when Senator Rick Santorum was defeated in 2006, he got a new job as head of the America’s Enemies program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank that has received funding from the usual sources: the Koch brothers, the Coors family, and so on.

Now Mr. Santorum is one of those paid Fox contributors contemplating a presidential run.
This is not new. Bryan Burrough writes in his excellent book The Big Rich about the "Big Four", the wealthiest oil barons in Texas who funded conservatives such as the John Birch Society as far back as the 1950's and who, before that, directed the Texas Democratic Party to do everything possible to sabotague Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Who were the "Big Four?" Roy Cullen, H.L. Hunt, Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson. More recently Texas has included multimillionaire realtor and home builder Bob Perry who is famous for among other political things pushing the Swift Boat Veteran's scam to defeat John Kerry for President. Perry has a lot of control in the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature where he works to water down any legislation that would make home builders financially responsible for building shoddy homes.

Of course it's not all Texas billionaires. There is also Richard Mellon Scaife who is the billionaire owner and publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He was a With $1.2 billion, Scaife, a principal heir to the Mellon banking, oil, and aluminum fortune and currently has at least $1.2 billion. He funded many of the most racdical attacks on Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Of course the super conservative Joseph Coors should not be overlooked in this listing of some of the American oligarchs pushing for political and economic control of this nation. Wikipedia states this about Joe Coors' conservative activities:
Coors was perhaps best known for his conservative politics. A founding member of the Heritage Foundation along with Paul Weyrich and Edwin Feulner, Coors provided $250,000 to the think tank to cover its first year budget. He was also involved with the founding of the Free Congress Foundation and the Council for National Policy. He was a member of Ronald Reagan's Kitchen Cabinet, helping finance Reagan's political career as governor of California and U.S. president. [1] Coors was also known to have privately donated $65,000 to buy a light cargo plane for the Contras effort in Nicaragua during Reagan's presidency. That donation went through National Security Council adviser Oliver North.
Without these and other wealthy individuals pushing conservatism in America there would be no real conservative movement.

Although he does not seem to have been upfront as a major right-wing political actor as the names above have, an important social conservative Republican is Erik Prince. After inheriting his father's fortune of $1.2 billion he quite the Navy and established the mercenary firm Wikipedia:
Prince's father co-founded the Family Research Council with Gary Bauer.[12] Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and wife of former Alticor (Amway) president and Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos[10], son of Richard DeVos, Sr. (listed by Forbes in 2009 as one of the world's richest men, with a net worth of $4.2 billion).[13]
For a list of the 400 richest people in America, here is the Forbes article. Most either inherited the wealth or married it, so it is not the result of their wealth being a reward for their efforts to add value to society or the economy. For most of them, their main focus in life is to protect their wealth and social position. Why else would their political arm, the conservative Republicans and their astroturf tea partiers, be so adamant about trying to remove all inheritance laws which affect only the largest fortunes?

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