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Joseph A. Palermo Headshot

Civic-Minded Plutocrats

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It's truly touching how much interest in America's great democratic experiment that our esteemed men and women of industry, finance, and commerce have shown in the 2010 midterm elections. Elementary school teachers across the land might lead civics lessons by pointing to these salt-of-the-Earth hedge-fund managers, oil tycoons, derivatives traders, and outsourcing zealots who are demonstrating such awe-inspiring civic mindedness.

Their love of Jeffersonian democracy runs so deep they're willing to invest millions of dollars in clandestine cash to fill the campaign coffers of some of the most extreme right-wing Senate candidates we've ever seen: Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, Carly Fiorina of California, Joe Miller of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, Ken Buck of Colorado, Sharron Angle of Nevada, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Since they're willing to spend so much money influencing the direction of the nation's politics might they also express this high sense of civic duty in paying their fair share of taxes at a time when their beloved country faces war and recession?

Who are these dedicated citizens who have recently shown such energetic civic engagement? They're Rob Collins of the "American Action Network"; Bruce Rastetter of the "American Future Fund"; the "60 Plus Association"; Steven Law of "American Crossroads"; Karl Rove of "Crossroads GPS"; Carl Forti, a Rove wannabe, of "Americans for Job Security"; Rupert Murdoch, Tim Phillips of "Americans for Prosperity," and Dick Armey of "Freedomworks." Paul Singer and others. And don't forget the Koch brothers and Thomas Donahue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who are aggressively reaching deep into hundreds of Congressional districts, drowning out local issues, and running attack ads against Democratic candidates full of lies, falsehoods, and innuendo.

Some citizens might wonder what these Republican fronts and cut-outs, stuffed to the gills with laundered cash from shadowy donors and outside groups, have to hide?

Maybe with double-digit unemployment in much of the country, and decades of misguided public policy that has given us the widest gap between the rich and everyone else in history, America's ruling elite is getting a little nervous that the Plebeians might sour on the beneficence of free markets. Today, about three hundred thousand Americans own about as much of the nation's wealth as do 180 million of their fellow citizens.

On the policy front, these civic-minded plutocrats will make sure that there'll be deep cuts in the safety net. The Frank-Dodd Act and Obama's health care initiative will be gutted. Like our illustrious Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts, if the Republicans win Congress next week they will passionately support any measure that benefits corporations at the expense of ordinary human beings.

Wouldn't it be something if the Bin Ladens of the world funneled untraceable cash into Republican candidates' coffers because they know they can count on the GOP to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, two of their greatest recruiting vehicles?

The press, like the Supreme Court, insists on promoting a false equivalency between labor unions and hidden corporate donors even though corporations and their industry associations are currently outspending labor unions 25 to 1. Besides, when labor unions participate in politics the electorate knows what they want, things like higher wages, better working conditions, health care, etc. and their members are working people known in the local community. When corporate behemoths and their front groups finance attack ads against Democrats do we really know exactly what they want? Kickbacks? Pork-barrel contracts? Lax regulations? Bailouts? War? Lost in cacophony of the horse-race press coverage are the policies that the Republicans are pushing.

If Americans continue to see their pensions shredded, home values diminished, tax dollars squandered on backstopping for Goldman Sachs and the boys, or thrown away on foreign wars, while their standard of living continues to plummet the time might come when the regular working people out there realize that these plutocrats can possess all the money in the world but couldn't produce a baloney sandwich without human labor.

This election cycle the corporate elites have spent more money than god railing against even the mild, market-friendly reforms President Obama got out of the Senate last year. Poor Obama. He never seemed to figure out that if your political opponents are going to denounce you as a "communist" a "fascist" and an "anti-colonial" Kenyan Mau Mau, you might as well give them something really to squawk about.

They want to keep people who work two or three jobs for about $7.20 an hour with not benefits and no set working hours in their place; they want to push wages down in the United States toward the level they pay their impoverished wage-slaves abroad.

The Oligarchy has kicked into high gear, exploiting the social dislocations of the Great Recession to disfranchise, pulverize, bat down, and crush the working middle class. They want to gut public institutions, take away worker pensions, and demolish the wogs' unions and voluntary associations.

In a period of Gilded Age inequality they're hitting us hard with the assistance of George W. Bush's Supreme Court and Karl Rove's underhanded political chicanery.

The economic meltdown that short-sighted "free market" policies brought upon us has now given the rich and powerful the opening to push their advantage more aggressively than ever. They're the same "Economic Royalists" that FDR denounced 70 years ago, only now they're richer, more sophisticated, vicious, and powerful.