The political blogosphere has been buzzing about a huge story in The New Yorker by Jane Meyer on "the Kochtopus."
To put it in short, just as Hillary famous said, there really is a vast right-wing conspiracy, funded by $100 million from the ultra-right-wing Koch brothers, who run a fossil fuels empire. The amount of money they have poured into climate change denial and environmental deregulation is especially shocking….as much as thirty million to a non-profit called the Mercatus Center. Meyer goes on:
The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center “the
most important think tank you’ve never heard of,” and noted that
fourteen of the twenty-three regulations that President George W. Bush
placed on a “hit list” had been suggested first by Mercatus scholars.
Fink told the paper that the Kochs have “other means of fighting [their]
battles,” and that the Mercatus Center does not actively promote the
company’s private interests. But Thomas McGarity, a law professor at the
University of Texas, who specializes in environmental issues, told me
that “Koch has been constantly in trouble with the E.P.A., and Mercatus
has constantly hammered on the agency.” An environmental lawyer who has
clashed with the Mercatus Center called it “a means of laundering
economic aims.” The lawyer explained the strategy: “You take corporate
money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank,” which “hires people
with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming
studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of
In 1997, for instance, the E.P.A. moved to reduce
surface ozone, a form of pollution caused, in part, by emissions from
oil refineries. Susan Dudley, an economist who became a top official at
the Mercatus Center, criticized the proposed rule. The E.P.A., she
argued, had not taken into account that smog-free skies would result in
more cases of skin cancer. She projected that if pollution were
controlled it would cause up to eleven thousand additional cases of skin
cancer each year.
In 1999, the District of Columbia Circuit
Court took up Dudley’s smog argument. Evaluating the E.P.A. rule, the
court found that the E.P.A. had “explicitly disregarded” the “possible
health benefits of ozone.” In another part of the opinion, the court
ruled, 2-1, that the E.P.A. had overstepped its authority in calibrating
standards for ozone emissions. As the Constitutional Accountability
Center, a think tank, revealed, the judges in the majority had
previously attended legal junkets, on a Montana ranch, that were
arranged by the Foundation for Research on Economics and the
Environment—a group funded by Koch family foundations. The judges have
claimed that the ruling was unaffected by their attendance.
Once again, no matter how I try, I can't be cynical enough for the 21st century, it seems.
And neither can our president, perhaps. The subtitle for the piece is "the billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama." This Sunday Frank Rich took up that theme in the TImes, adding a lot of shocking details, and concluding:
When wolves of [Rupert] Murdoch’s ingenuity and the Kochs’ stealth have been at
the door of our democracy in the past, Democrats have fought back
fiercely. Franklin Roosevelt’s triumphant 1936 re-election campaign
pummeled the Liberty League as a Republican ally eager to “squeeze the
worker dry in his old age and cast him like an orange rind into the
refuse pail.” When John Kennedy’s patriotism was assailed by Birchers
calling for impeachment, he gave a major speech denouncing their “crusades of suspicion.”
And Obama? So far, sadly, this question answers itself.
Take a look at JFK's speech, and you'll see Rich has a point:
In the most critical periods of our nation's history, there have
always been those fringes of our society who have sought to escape their
own responsibility by finding a simple solution, an appealing slogan,
or a convenient scapegoat.
Financial crises could be explained by the presence of too many immigrants…And under the strains and frustrations imposed by constant tension and
harassment, the discordant voices of extremism are heard once again in
the land. Men who are unwilling to face up to the danger from without
are convinced that the real danger comes from within. They look
suspiciously at their neighbors and their leaders. They call for a 'man
on horseback' because they do not trust the people. They find treason in
our finest churches, in our highest court, and even in the treatment of
our water. They equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the
welfare state with socialism, and socialism with communism.
President Obama, your move.