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The Same Old Game May 26, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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It has been said before but it is worth a reminder—if you want to know what is going on in politics follow the money.

The press has focused on the tea party crowd and portrays opposition to Obama as a grass roots phenomenon. But Obama haters are not limited to “ordinary folks”.

As Paul Krugman reports:   

Look, for example, at the campaign contributions of commercial banks – traditionally Republican-leaning, but only mildly so. So far this year, according to the Washington Post, 63 percent of spending by banks’ corporate PACs has gone to Republicans, up from 53 percent last year. Securities and investment firms, traditionally Democratic-leaning, are now giving more money to Republicans. And oil and gas companies, always Republican-leaning, have gone all out, bestowing 76 percent of their largess on the GOP.

These are extraordinary numbers given the normal tendency of corporate money to flow to the party in power. Corporate America, however, really, truly hates the current administration. Wall Street, for example, is in “a state of bitter, seething, hysterical fury” toward the president, writes John Heilemann of New York magazine. What’s going on? One answer is taxes – not so much on corporations themselves as on the people who run them. The Obama administration plans to raise tax rates on upper brackets back to Clinton-era levels.

Furthermore, health reform will in part be paid for with surtaxes on high-income individuals. All this will amount to a significant financial hit to CEOs, investment bankers and other masters of the universe.

Now, don’t cry for these people: They’ll still be doing extremely well, and by and large they’ll be paying little more as a percentage of their income than they did in the 1990s. Yet the fact that the tax increases they’re facing are reasonable doesn’t stop them from being very, very angry.

Nor are taxes the whole story.

Although many liberals are disappointed in Obama’s timid attempts to regulate Wall St. and the oil industry, corporate America is livid that the free ride they received from the Bush Administration is over.

From the outside, this rage against regulation seems bizarre. I mean, what did they expect? The financial industry, in particular, ran wild under deregulation, eventually bringing on a crisis that has left 15 million Americans unemployed, and required large-scale taxpayer-financed bailouts to avoid an even worse outcome. Did Wall Street expect to emerge from all that without facing some new restrictions? Apparently it did.

So what President Barack Obama and his party now face isn’t just, or even mainly, an opposition grounded in right-wing populism. For grass-roots anger is being channeled and exploited by corporate interests, which will be the big winners if the GOP does well in November.

If this sounds familiar, it should: It’s the same formula the right has been using for a generation. Use identity politics to whip up the base; then, when the election is over, give priority to the concerns of your corporate donors. Run as the candidate of “real Americans,” not those soft-on-terror East Coast liberals; then, once you’ve won, declare that you have a mandate to privatize Social Security. It comes as no surprise to learn that American Crossroads, a new organization whose goal is to deploy large amounts of corporate cash on behalf of Republican candidates, is the brainchild of none other than Karl Rove.

The tea party movement is nothing but the visible manifestation of this resurgence of corporate influence. And the corporations are quite of aware of how this game is played. FreedomWorks, the brainchild of former House Republican leader Dick Army, is funded primarily by corporations and is the main financial backer of the tea partiers. Instead of acting in their self-interest and working towards a federal government that has the resources to constrain corporations, the tea partiers are actively working against their own interests trying to insure that corporate America can operate with impunity.

The plutocrats with the money know that there are enough people for whom tribalism trumps self-interest, confident that they can kick up enough racism, fear, and resentment to sustain sufficient anti-government fervor to return us to the good old days when Wall St. whiz kids  and Saudi sheiks set the political agenda for the rest of the world.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

 

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