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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Columns

Tea Party goals will poison America


The Koch brothers, of Koch Industries, have found themselves in the national spotlight as of late. This spotlight is not a response to their philanthropic prowess, but instead a response to their “behind the scenes” work in the Tea Party movement. If you were to follow the strings of the marionettes of the Tea Party movement, they would inevitably lead you into the hands, and pockets, of these men — the movement’s puppet masters.

The Koch brothers, who have a combined fortune of $35 billion, donated $196 million to conservative causes from 1998 to 2008 through foundations they controlled.

This is, of course, perfectly legal because of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which said that corporations have First Amendment protection when it comes to campaign finance.

House Republican Leader John Boehner said the decision was “a big win for the First Amendment,” and that it would “Let the American people decide how much (campaign) money is enough.” But by “American people” does Boehner mean people like the Koch brothers?

The average American does not have $196 million laying around to donate to political causes. And what exactly will the Tea Party acquire if it accomplishes the Koch-sponsored goal of a limited federal government?

The 1980 presidential campaign provides us with a glimpse. In 1980 David Koch ran as the vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket. In his campaign, he advocated for the abolishment of social security, welfare, the FBI, the CIA, public schools, and finally, federal regulatory agencies.

Tea Party Senate candidates such as Rand Paul and Sharron Angle also champion some of these causes. Let’s look at what the Koch brothers would gain if these changes, particularly the abolishment of federal regulatory agencies, were to occur.

Koch Industries is one of the top 10 air polluters in the United States. Koch Industries has also lobbied to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from classifying formaldehyde as a known carcinogen in humans.

In 1998, the Koch Petroleum group was fined $6 million for allowing aviation fluid and wastewater with a high ammonia content to leak into the Mississippi river.

In 1999, it was fined $553,504 after it was discovered that the company had stolen oil from land belonging to the government and American Indians.

In 2001, the company paid the government $25 million in a settlement after admitting to covering up environmental violations at their refinery in Corpus Christi.

If the tea partiers get their way, Koch Industries will find itself in a proverbial big business Eden in which the forbidden apple of federal regulation hangs untouched on the tree of laissez-faire capitalism. There will be no EPA or FBI to investigate the company’s environmentally damaging conduct.

What will the tea partiers gain from their partnership with the Koch brothers? They will get polluted rivers, an even more ethereal ozone, water damage in their beach houses, unsafe work environments and a return to Boss Tweed’s America of the late 19th century.

In other words, America will become a paradise for big businesses, including those that are trying get a known carcinogen like formaldehyde from being classified as one. If these changes do occur, the tea partiers will find their veins pumped so full of formaldehyde that they will be too comatose to realize the irony of their situation.

Tea partiers are unwittingly playing themselves into the hands of big businesses that want to implement policies that will, as the saying goes, “squeeze the worker dry in his old age and cast him like an orange rind into the refuse pail.”

If the tea partiers get their way, there will be no Social Security or welfare to help people get back onto their feet after companies like Koch Industries commit nefarious acts. There will be no Medicaid or Medicare to provide the funds for their work-related illnesses. Maybe then, they will realize what the real “death panels” are.

The Koch brothers’ relationship with the Tea Party movement reveals the need for campaign finance reform. If egregiously rich and corrupt businessmen like the Koch brothers continue to pump money into political campaigns and faux grass-root movements like the tea party, we will end up with a country run by big businesses instead of a big federal government. Whereas the federal government is accountable to the people, the businesses will be accountable to no one.

Daniel Renfrow is an Anthropology junior and may be reached at [email protected]


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