Local view: Conservative bullies seek more money, power at our expenseBullies enjoy power and often feel entitled to more than their share. This generates conflict, something that could be seen clearly during the struggle over the fiscal cliff in Washington, D.C.
By: Bill Mittlefehldt, Duluth News Tribune
Bullies enjoy power and often feel entitled to more than their share. This generates conflict, something that could be seen clearly during the struggle over the fiscal cliff in Washington, D.C.
President Obama won a clear mandate in the Electoral College by appealing to all groups of Americans; his opposing party not so much.
The unprecedented concentration of capital in the U.S. from both income and wealth accumulation over the past 20 years has raised risks for our republic. The most dangerous challenge in D.C. comes when concentrated capital finds its way into the political arena. The Gini Index of Inequality is growing in the U.S. to levels worse than in 1929.
The Gates and Buffett families have demonstrated the generous use of excess capital.
But a minority of bad apples has begun using its billions to subvert public discourse. These wealthy people are funding more right-wing lobbying groups that seem to have no loyalty to our republic. These bullies have enjoyed their cocoon of capital. But their isolation adds moral hazards to our future. These wealthy bullies want more than their share, it seems to me, and their arrogance puts us all at risk.
The most vivid illustration of this disruption of public process is the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. This nonprofit offers lobbying services to right-wing funders. ALEC claims 2,000 members, most of them Republicans. And they offer free “model legislation” drawn up by corporate lobbyists without benefit of public discourse. These model bills have led to the passage of 200 pieces of legislation, including recent anti-labor legislation in Michigan. There are 300 corporations and a number of billionaires which perceive this as free-market politics. In fact, it is an un-American attack on the republic.
These bullies are a growing threat to consensus and policy.
Another dramatic example is the lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform. Its president is Grover Norquist, who has suggested that more than 90 percent of GOP legislators signed a no-new-taxes pledge. Its activities seem to have little to do with America and nothing to do with reform. The group has been funded by extremists on the right. The extremists seem to think loyalty to the group is a higher priority than loyalty to the republic. This, I suspect, is why Norquist has stated he hopes to drown the federal government.
Leadership like this helps us understand how the GOP became the party for wealthy white guys. Unrestrained power seeks its own reward without concern for justice or mercy.
But the best illustration of this bullying has been the Tea Party. The Koch brothers and their billionaire buddies helped fund the rise of the Tea Party. The impact of private funding and the un-American lobbying it generated gave us many Tea Party victories in 2010. Outside money helped Tea Party radicals take party leadership from more moderate Republicans.
More recently, we faced the fiscal cliff with GOP folks who seemed to think cooperation would be a sign of ideological weakness.
These bullies in D.C. will take more than their share until they confront moral limits to immoral actions.
Bill Mittlefehldt taught economics for 30 years and is co- chairman of the Energy, Food and Environment Team at Peace Church in Duluth.