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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Memo To Charles And David Koch: The Left's Accusations Of 'Oligarchy' Are A Power Grab

Americans for Prosperity Foundation
 Chairman David Koch
by Ralph Benko, Contributing Author: The New York Times launched a sneak attack on conservatives last October. A prominently featured piece proclaimed “Just 158 families have provided nearly half of the early money for efforts to capture the White House.” It commences:"They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy."This attack predictably is being picked up and amplified by the Left, which has its own generous benefactors, by painting the benefactors of the right as “oligarchs.” What’s really going on?

Progressives have an utterly brilliant gift for what they call winning the “Framing War.” By “Framing War” they mean that she who frames the terms of the debate wins the debate, and, with patience, the attendant policy victory.

The Times goes on to say:But regardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlement programs.Crying “oligarchy” is a fiendishly clever rhetorical device. Don’t fall for it. It’s a naked power grab by the Left.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines an oligarchy as “a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.” Oligarch implies someone of great wealth with disproportionate political influence.

Oligarch carries a connotation of opposition to republican principles and carries an innuendo of illegitimacy. The Progressives’ goal is to overturn Citizens United to enhance their own political power and disadvantage the right. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Sinister former secretary of labor Robert Reich, writes in Alternet America is Now a Full-Scale Oligarchy: We must get big money out of politics. In the New York Review of Books Paul Krugman reviews Reich’s latest book in a column entitled Challenging the Oligarchy. The socialist People’s World writes Republican victory in 2016 would strengthen new “patrimonial oligarchy.”

Washington Post bigfoot Dana Milbank writes “Because there are fewer liberal billionaires (and those who are politically active, such as George Soros and Tom Steyer, tend to shun super PACs in favor of their own projects) the only real counterweight to Republican super PACs in this new era is union money. The only question is how big a loss Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association will be for the unions. It’s virtually certain to be another step toward American oligarchy.”

In crying “Oligarchy!” the Left simply is trying to seize power for itself. It’s nonsense. And pernicious nonsense. The left, in George Soros, Tim Gill, and Tom Steyer, for starters, plus Big Labor, has more than the equivalent throw weight of the Koch brothers.

Unlike the left, with its campaign of vilification of the Kochs and others, I never have impugned the left’s benefactors. In fact I’ve written quite sympathetically of the much-misunderstood Soros, a protégé of the great Karl Popper.

The Left is after only one thing: power. Their instrument is the federal government, over which they have disproportionate influence and over which they seek hegemonic control, and, through that, hegemonic control over us. The wealthy on the Right are an obstacle to the hegemonic ambitions of the Left. It’s a power struggle and the Left, while sanctimonious, are no angels.

I’m no shill for oligarchy. That said, in a struggle between the wealthy and absolutist government the wealthy are the lesser evil.

Consider, for example, the Magna Carta. It is one of the iconic documents of human rights and classical liberalism. As described by the British Library,Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. … [B]uried within them were a number of fundamental values that both challenged the autocracy of the king and proved highly adaptable in future centuries. Most famously, the 39th clause gave all ‘free men’ the right to justice and a fair trial.

... Magna Carta stated that no taxes could be demanded without the ‘general consent of the realm’, meaning the leading barons and churchmen. It re-established privileges which had been lost, and it linked fines to the severity of the offence so as not to threaten an individual’s livelihood.
The Great Charter of the Liberties, whatever its limitations and defects, was negotiated by the Barons — the British oligarchs of the day — to reduce the absolute power of the King. While the Barons were looking out only for their own interests they set a powerful precedent. Liberties expanded, over time, to the rest of us.

Progressives are the modern day equivalent of royalists, aligning themselves with the central power. They use all means at their disposal (as King John would turn to Pope Innocent III to annul the Magna Carta) to tip the balance of power toward absolutism.

Most Progressives, despite their pretensions, are no friends of liberty. Or, for that matter, friends of justice for all. It’s a simple naked power grab. If they wish to frame conservatives as oligarchs then let conservatives frame the Left for totalitarianism. They’ve earned it.

Moreover, the Left is just wrong. The “158 families” influence by virtue of their donations is a “monster under the bed,” an imaginary hobgoblin concocted by totalitarian-leaning Progressives to scare the populace into lending support. The great H.L. Mencken, the Sage of Baltimore, called out this technique In Defense of Women (1918):the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.The power of the donors is greatly over-rated. Just ask Jeb Bush. And according to a recent article in Politico:Charles Koch is “disappointed” with the line-up of Republican candidates in the 2016 cycle, and is surprised by the lack of influence he and his brother have wielded so far.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist, said he’ll eventually support a candidate who he agrees with on some things with, but that it’s hard to get excited. He said a list presented to all the candidates about the Kochs’ political arm’s priorities “doesn’t seem to faze them much. You’d think we could have more influence.”
The Hill now writes, Upset Republican Donors: Have We Wasted Our Money?“People are upset about the Citizens United decision; people are upset about all this money flowing into politics, but at the end of the day it has no impact,” said New York financier Anthony Scaramucci, who was a national finance co-chair for Scott Walker’s presidential campaign before moving to raise funds for Bush when Walker quit the race.

... John Jordan, a California winery owner who is running a super-PAC to support Marco Rubio’s bid, agrees.

“Despite all the talk about money in politics, we are entering an era where big money is less and less important,” said Jordan, who nonetheless spends millions on politics, largely through his own super-PACs.

The cautionary tale cited by nearly every donor or fundraiser interviewed on or off the record has been Bush. He has fallen in polls despite the more than $50 million already spent on his behalf by the group Right to Rise, which far outraised every other super-PAC with its mid-year haul of $103 million.

“I think the whole idea of super-PACs has been overrated,” said Fred Malek, finance chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
As Jonah Goldberg writes in National Review:And yet, to listen to countless pundits and politicians, we live in an oligarchy now. Clinton, who benefits from no less than five super PACs, thinks the Citizens United case, which made super PACs possible, is such a threat to democracy that the First Amendment should be rewritten to get rid of them.

Democrats don't like Citizens United because they think it might blunt their advantages. According to, of the top five organizations -- i.e., unions and corporate PACs -- that give to federal candidates, all (mostly public unions) give 97 percent to 100 percent of their donations to liberals and Democrats. Of the top 10, eight give almost exclusively to the left. Of the top 25, 18 donate disproportionately to the left.

By the way, Koch Industries is No. 49 on the list, and the National Rifle Association is No. 74.
In addition to the sinister totalitarian cast of those attempting to smear conservative benefactors as oligarchs there is an additional, rich, irony. The “reformers” are very much the source of the corruption of government that they protest.

Jonathan Rauch (a good friend) last year published a compelling monograph for The Brookings Institution, Political Realism: how hacks, machines, big money, and back-room deals can strengthen American democracy. It persuaded me that the very campaign finance reforms that have become a Progressive shibboleth are at the very core of the breakdown of our governance. Rauch:The realist mission is … in the contest between profes­sionalism and amateurism, to move law, rules, and public opinion closer to neutrality, thereby giving the professionals more space to do what they need to do. …

A logical place to begin is by reducing the artificial fundraising advantages that current law gives to political amateurs and outsiders. Today’s tight restrictions on donations to candidates and parties have not reduced the amount of money in politics, nor have they demonstrably reduced corruption, improved policy outcomes, facilitated gover­nance, or pleased the public. … Because many or most donors would give directly to parties and candidates rather than shadow machines if they could, a logical remedy is to raise dramatically the contribution limits to candidates and parties, bringing more money back inside the system.
Beware these self-styled reformers. As former Federal Reserve Governor Henry Wallich once said, “Experience is the name we give to our past mistakes, reform that which we give to future ones.”

Smearing conservative benefactors as oligarchs is part of a naked power grab by the Left. Don’t fall for it. Plus, the evidence is compelling that Progressive efforts to regulate political speech is a major contributor to the very corruption the Left indicts.

The rich by far are the lesser evil than the Progressive Utopian Dream of Even Bigger Government. When high-sounding campaign finance reforms are proposed see them for what they are, a pure power grab.

Repeal, rather than double down on, campaign finance law restrictions. Government, for all of us, is much more likely to get much better. Read Rauch.
Ralph Benko is senior advisor, economics, to American Principles in Action's Gold Standard 2012 Initiative, and a contributor to the ARRA News Service. Founder of The Prosperity Caucus, he was a member of the Jack Kemp supply-side team, served in an unrelated area as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House. The article which first appeared in Forbes.

Tags: Ralph Benko, Memo, Charles And David Koch, Left's Accusations Of 'Oligarchy', Power Grab To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
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