One of the fascinating occurrences in American Politics in this off-year is the growth of the ‘Tea Party’, which isn’t really a party. The Tea Party espouses limited government. So limited that they appear to wish to shut down most of it.
The Tea Party’s stated policies are often in conflict. There is widespread support for limited government in the Tea Party, both as a philosophical concept, and as a means of cutting taxes. Curiously there is no support that I have seen for cutting the Military, one of the largest expenses that the United States has.
One of the agencies most often mentioned for closure is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unlike the other agencies that are often cited as not needed, the EPA doesn’t have a direct connection with the public. Compare that to the Department of Education which has a direct connection to anyone who has children, or have attended school themselves! So why is the EPA on the Tea Party’s hit list?
Several investigations of the Tea Party have indicated that while it claims to be a non-partisan, grass roots group, it is heavily funded by corporate backers. The New Yorker recently ran an article titled Covert Operations – The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama. Other media outlets who have carried out investigations have confirmed the connection.
Koch Industries is heavily involved in the oil and coal industries. The brothers who own the firm are rich by anyone’s standard. They pay a lot of taxes, and produce materials which are either regulated by the EPA, or have effects that are regulated by the EPA.. They have a vested interest in reducing the impact of government regulation, and government costs on themselves and their company. Curiously the very things that the Tea Party is concerned with.
Since Koch Industries is privately held, it isn’t required to give the same level of disclosure as a publicly traded company. This gives Koch a level of freedom that British Petroleum, Exxon and other publicly held companies do not have, to take part in the political debate. And the company, denials to the contrary, is taking part. Based on American investigations, it appears that the Tea Party is actually the Koch Party. What actions Tea Party advocates will take if this connection is proved to them is unknown, however I expect them to be interesting. Tea Party members as a whole do not appreciate astroturfing, however they do seem to have a blind spot when dealing with people who purportedly have the same interests.
Fake grass roots campaigns have a nasty habit of back firing. Take the Tea Party’s support for closing the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has been responsible for cleaning up some truly horrible pollution. Have you ever heard of the Iron Mountain Mine? Runoff from the Iron Mountain Mine, which included a variety of acids and poisons, did tremendous damage to the Sacramento River, damage that the river may never recover from. The runoff also damaged the health of all of the communities downstream. Then there is the damaged caused by lead anti-knock additives in gasoline. Or the infamous Love Canal, where ‘A survey conducted by the Love Canal Homeowners Association found that 56% of the children born from 1974-1978 had at least one birth defect.‘
The problem is that the average person doesn’t have the knowledge about how pollution hurts them and their families to make an informed decision. Because of that, it is possible to use an astroturf campaign to convince them to take a position that is contrary to their own best interests. For a time at least. Until the next disaster, the next Love Canal.
Yes, I know a lot about the Love Canal. In the area I where I grew up, we could receive television signals from Niagara Falls, NY, and Buffalo, NY, so we got to hear all about it. Later, professionally, I worked for a company involved in manufacturing pollution control products, and attended many meetings held by the Environmental Protection Agency. As a result I’m better educated on the issues than most people, and while I’m no longer in the industry, I still have a strong interest in environmental issues.
The average Tea Party member doesn’t have my background. For a time at least they can be fooled. For a time. But what happens when the truth is violently pushed on them, as happened to the Love Canal residents and their neighbors?
Koch Industries may think that funding the Tea Party, and trying to get it’s aims adopted is a good idea. In the short term it may be. The problem is that most people aren’t stupid. They may not know things, if they haven’t been taught. But they can, and will, work out what is happening. And when that happens Koch Industries is in trouble. Big trouble.
Because the various groups that make up the Tea Party are an attack on the establishment. Koch Industries is a big part of the establishment. The Tea Party groups are attacking the establishment because the establishment no longer stands for the values that they hold dear. When they realize that part of the establishment is using them, to attack another part of the establishment, they will be furious.
The Tea Party also stands for responsibility. Koch’s funding of the Tea Party is an attempt to evade responsibility, an attempt that the Tea Party members will not stand for when the connections become clear to them. They don’t like being taken advantage of, and this is what Koch is doing.
Koch will continue to try and hide the funding connections, and the policy connections. But in the long term they will fail. Too many people are curious now. Too many people are looking at what is happening. Too many people know that many of the Tea Party policies disadvantage Tea Party members. When a group is disadvantaged by it’s policies, there is solid evidence that someone hiding behind the scenes is attempting to use them for his or her own advantage.
Koch Industries actions show a total lack of respect for the intelligence of the American public. This lack of respect that will fuel a sense of rage that will eventually burn up Koch as an operating entity.
Saturday September 11, 2010