Home > Uncategorized > There IS a Deep State… and It’s Name is ALEC… and It’s Face is the Koch Brothers

There IS a Deep State… and It’s Name is ALEC… and It’s Face is the Koch Brothers

Of late, much has been written about the Deep State, which The Nation writer Greg Grandin describes as:

…a vernacular way of describing what political scientists like to call “civil society,” that is, any venue in which powerful individuals, either alone or collectively, might try to use the state to fulfill their private ambitions, to get richer and obtain more power.

Those who believe the mechanisms required to maintain “civil society” somehow create a coordinated effort by the heads of government agencies to get wealthy and impose their will at the expense of taxpayers are likely to oppose “the government” in general and are especially susceptible to the ideas of the “Deep State”. Those who oppose “the government” don’t like it’s regulatory arm that requires them to get permits to put additions on their homes, to keep their cars maintained, to buy auto insurance, and— now— to buy health insurance. They especially don’t like the “confiscatory taxes” the government imposes on them: taxing their income, the products they buy at the store, skimming off money for retirement and health care, and imposing fees on a host of services.

After reading “Big Money Rules“, Diane Ravitch’s review of two recent books in the NY Review of Books, I am persuaded that there IS a “Deep State”… and it’s name is ALEC and it’s face is the Koch Brothers. In her essay, Ms. Ravitch reviews Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth for America and Gordon Lafer’s “The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time.” The essay provides a stunning description of how the Koch brothers used their incredible wealth to create and populate think tanks with libertarian economists and political scientists who crank out studies supporting their beliefs and used their influence among their billionaire peers to create the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It is hard to understate the influence of ALEC the stance of today’s GOP and the legislation being written in state legislatures across the country. Ms. Ravtich describes ALEC’s impact in these paragraphs:

ALEC writes policy reports and drafts legislation designed to carry out its members’ goals.* It claims, Lafer writes, “to introduce eight hundred to one thousand bills each year in the fifty state legislatures, with 20 percent becoming law.” The “exchange” that ALEC promotes is

between corporate donors and state legislators. The corporations pay ALEC’s expenses and contribute to legislators’ campaigns; in return, legislators carry the corporate agenda into their statehouses…. In the first decade of this century, ALEC’s leading corporate backers contributed more than $370 million to state elections, and over one hundred laws each year based on ALEC’s model bills were enacted….

Lafer contends that ALEC and its compatriots are engineering what he calls “a revolution of falling expectations.”  They have cynically played on the resentments of many citizens, purposefully deepening antagonism toward government programs that benefit unspecified “others.” Many people are losing their economic security while others are getting government handouts. Why should others get pensions? Why should others get health insurance? Why should others have job protections? Why should unions protect their members? “We are the only generation in American history to be left worse off than the last one,” reads a post from the Kochs’ advocacy group Generation Opportunity urging young people in Michigan to vote down a ballot proposal to raise the state’s sales tax. “We are paying more for college tuition, for a Social Security system and a Medicare system we won’t get to use, $18 trillion in national debt and now an Obamacare system—all that steals from our generation’s paychecks.”

What’s especially frightening to me is that the Koch brother’s notions about social security, medicare, and government programs have permeated the mindsets of all Americans, particularly the younger generations. I am dismayed to hear my daughters who are in the 30s and 40s declare matter-of-factly that they do not expect to benefit from social security or Medicare because “we’re going to run out of money”… which is correct if and only if the low taxes and libertarian ideas espoused by the ALEC prevail. But there is nothing in the constitution and nothing in the laws of the economics that indicates that the government will run out of money despite what Koch-funded think tanks want the public to believe.

In 2014, just before the mid-term elections, I heard Bernie Sanders speak to roughly 90 people at Dartmouth College. He spent 30 minutes of his time explaining about the Koch brothers, a topic I wrongly assumed most in attendance knew about. I heard him give talks to increasingly large audiences over the next several months and every time he spoke he explained how the Koch brothers were using their money to buy influence. Here’s what is frustrating to me— and I am certain frustrating to him: the coverage of his campaign focussed more on immaterial and bogus issues like “Bernie Bro’s”, polls, and intramural squabbling in the DNC and seldom on his stance against plutocrats like the Koch brothers. The essence of his campaign and that of all progressive candidates is opposition to the REAL Deep State, which is the influence of money on politics and, most importantly, on the shared ideals of our nation.

Six months ago I wrote a post the made reference to Ms. MacLean’s book that concluded with this paragraph:

How do we turn this around? Only by appealing to the higher angels in people. Service learning projects, the creation of clubs at public schools that promote humanitarian causes as opposed to athletics and careers, and direct instruction and direct experience in how democracy works would all be helpful. As long as schools are viewed as career-preparation we are reinforcing the go-it-alone ethos that led us to where we are today…. where those who have made their fortune are loath to share it with others. The result of this ethos is an economy where the .1% cling to their “earnings” while the vast majority of the workforce works from paycheck to paycheck.

Everything that has happened in the last six months— especially the “tax reform” bill— reinforces the final sentence of this conclusion. Until the mainstream media— and the party that supposedly opposes the GOP ethos— hammers on inequality the same way ALEC hammers on unions, “the government”, and taxes we can expect the revolution of falling expectationsto continue unabated.

 

 

 

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