The Era After Communism

April 8, 2015 an essay by Robert Reich, which originated on his blog, spread throughout the online news. The Christian Science Monitor ran it with the headline “How the Koch brothers and the super-rich are buying their way out of criticism”. Reich starts writing with “Not long ago I was asked to speak to a religious congregation about widening inequality. Shortly before I began, the head of the congregation asked that I not advocate raising taxes on the wealthy. He said he didn’t want to antagonize certain wealthy congregants on whose generosity the congregation depended.” This is followed by a barrage of lived experiences where the request is continuously remade to avoid antagonizing donors, funders and financial backers by colleges, churches, non-profits, think tanks, universities, etc. “It’s bad enough big money is buying off politicians. It’s also buying off nonprofits that used to be sources of investigation, information, and social change, from criticizing big money. Other sources of funding are drying up. Research grants are waning. Funds for social services of churches and community groups are growing scarce. Legislatures are cutting back university funding. Appropriations for public television, the arts, museums, and libraries are being slashed.” Reich commiserates “And more than at any time since the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century, the money is now in the pockets of big corporations and the super wealthy.” (Why do you think they are called the “Carnegie Libraries”?) Like the lubricant it can be, big money eases what is said, or rather, not said. “When Comcast, for example, finances a nonprofit like the International Center for Law and Economics, the Center supports Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner.” This is then followed by a litany of practices by the brotherhood of Koch: “When the Charles Koch Foundation pledges $1.5 million to Florida State University’s economics department, it stipulates that a Koch-appointed advisory committee will select professors and undertake annual evaluations. The Koch brothers now fund 350 programs at over 250 colleges and universities across America. You can bet that funding doesn’t underwrite research on inequality and environmental justice. David Koch’s $23 million of donations to public television earned him positions on the boards of two prominent public-broadcasting stations. It also guaranteed that a documentary critical of the Kochs didn’t air.” “David Koch has also donated tens of millions of dollars to the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and sits on their boards.” which has prompted dozens of scientist and environmental groups to interrogate these ties by declaring ““When some of the biggest contributors to climate change and funders of misinformation on climate science sponsor exhibitions … they undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions responsible for transmitting scientific knowledge,” their statement said.” (Pittsburg’s Carnegie Museum’s public has confidence the dinosaurs won’t topple over on them. What’s the big deal?) Reich concludes with “Our democracy is directly threatened when the rich buy off politicians. But no less dangerous is the quieter and more insidious buy-off of institutions democracy depends on to research, investigate, expose, and mobilize action against what is occurring.” That same day the Columbus Dispatch’s Randy Ludlow headlined “Kasich to talk economics at Washington D.C. summit”. Mr. Ludlow reports “Kasich will be among the speakers at an economic summit in Washington, D.C., on April 23, according to the sponsor of the event, The Atlantic magazine.” ““Conversations will dive deep into the factors driving economic conditions at home and around the world — jobs, debt, income inequality, plus geopolitical uncertainty abroad,” The Atlantic said in a news release.” Ludlow’s final say on Ohio’s presidential wannabe’s economic foray reads “Conservative energy conglomerate Koch Industries is underwriting the D.C. summit at which Kasich will appear. David Koch, one of the “Koch brothers” prominent in political circles for the money they spend backing conservative causes and candidates, was a maximum $12,155 donor to Kasich’s re-election campaign last year.” Writing for a Washington Post blog entitled Plum Line, Greg Sargent headlines “GOP resistance to Obamacare is working brilliantly” (4-13-15). The essay expands on the recent Gallup-Healthways poll revealing the dramatic decrease of uninsured in the US since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2013. It also tracks the slowdown in the rate of decline due to the resistance of individual states to engage with the new law. “After a number of states expanded Medicaid last year, in 2015 the push for the expansion has stalled in places like Florida, Tennessee, Alaska, Missouri, and Utah, due to conservative legislative opposition and an aggressive campaign against it by the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity.” Recently we’ve found the “Koch-founded Americans” dipping their fingers into the upcoming open primary for mayor in Columbus, with one of the candidates (Sheriff Zach Scott) embracing the “Americans…” position (like Governor, like Mayoral aspirant…). ‘Nuff said.

OK, OK. In this celebrity obsessed culture, is it any wonder that the bat beacon appears with every easily identifiable Gotham City villain? But that created distraction only obfuscates and elides the grotesque historic turn that Reich points out. Given the current local as well as international trend that ““There’s really no choice,” a university dean told me. “We’ve got to go where the money is.” (Reich), our K-12 as well as college students are interpreting a world where biological entities do what they do because it “profits” them, and chemicals interact for the sake of profit, while the laws of physics stand as equal with those of economics. And musicians make music only for financial gain, artists are entrepreneurs, and plays/movies are created solely for product endorsement and promotion. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda. Once American culture and science prided itself on being genuine, without taint of “ideological” restraint/censorship (unlike the disparaged state run “sciences and cultures” of past totalitarian regimes). Today? Well there’s only one party, one ideology. As Rudi Giuliani put it “This is a free-market economy – welcome to the era after communism.”

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