Let’s face the facts. If you are not part of the wealthiest one-tenth of 1% and able to buy influence, you or I have absolutely no say in taxes, consumer protections or what fuels we use or how we interact with our government.
If you are a conservative Republican, you have been scammed by your own elected representatives. Take the national debt as an example. Every tax cut in recent decades has been instigated by a “conservative” Republican Congress with budget-busting deficits now reaching $1 trillion a year. Deregulation by a Republican-led Congress has given us the Boeing crisis, the opioid crisis, and worsening of global warming. Oh, and yes, mass shootings are epidemic because of our racial, ethnic, and religious hatred of each other worsened by a bigoted president and his Republican Party who have no backbone to stand up for what is right.
But don’t think that if you are a liberal Democrat that you haven’t been scammed, as well. The fact is, “If you can’t pay to play, you have no say.” There have been very few instances where Democrats in Congress have blown the whistle on abuses of the major corporate or wealthy donor interests.
We think that we are represented in government, but are we? Here are just two examples:
How many of you have heard of the “border adjustment tax”? It changed corporate income tax from an origin tax to a destination tax. It was to be a key provision of the Trump tax cut. The border adjustment tax, or BAT, would have made the tax bill revenue-neutral — no increase in the deficit. It would have given manufacturers who operate in the U.S. an advantage over imported goods, thereby increasing U.S. jobs and helping stop the offshore exodus, both items that President Trump said he would do.
What BAT would have done was change the corporate tax law to require U.S. corporations to pay tax on profits made on all items sold in the U.S., not what was made in the U.S. Corporations could no longer hide profits in foreign countries. Walmart and Koch Industries, among others, opposed it. Charles Koch made it clear to Republican BAT supporters that future financial support would disappear and that primary opponents would be handpicked. The results? BAT was killed.
Probably the most egregious example of how little say we have in our government involves global warming. The coal, oil and gas extraction industries, refineries and pipelines have been active in protecting their profits. Like the Russians and Chinese, the Koch brothers, the CATO Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council and many other conservative groups used every available method to disparage the scientific evidence supporting the facts about global warming by using social media.
This was an all-out effort to spread doubt and eventually kill the cap and trade bill in Congress. Cap and trade had been used to stop the acid rain problem decades before, but the renewable energy industry — wind, solar and nuclear — was seen as competition against Charles Koch’s refinery and pipeline cash cows. Koch and his brother almost single-handedly killed cap and trade by unleashing their lobby organization against any legislator, especially Republican, who did not fall in line.
What I am pointing out here is that billionaires, the largest corporations and financial institutions have bought our government. They spend $3.5 billion to make sure that they get the 535 legislators to do their bidding. They wine and dine, give expensive resort vacations, provide transportation and elaborate parties, and, if that doesn’t work, they make sure that the legislator knows that they have other “less friendly” ways at their disposal. They are successful at getting the outcomes they want 97% of the time.
Charles Koch is a staunch Libertarian. He hates any government regulation, taxation or consumer protections including Social Security and Medicare. His union-busting history is well documented. Koch’s family has become the second wealthiest family in the U.S. by keeping the country dependent on fossil fuels at the expense of the environment, scientific advancement and national unity. They now have their sights set on Alaska. Their “Americans for Prosperity” organization has been extremely effective in getting our present governor elected. Dunleavy has close ties to the oil industry and the Koch family. Now BP is leaving Alaska and Hilcorp is expanding in the state. I wonder: Are they somehow connected?
Ed Linkous lives in Fairbanks. He served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly from 1987 to 1989.