Blowing the lid off the billionaires’ big con — and its deadly link to the coronavirus pandemic

Thom plus logo Who wants to be a rich man in a poor country?

About 75 percent of Americans trusted the federal government to "do what is right" when polled during most of the last years of the Eisenhower administration and early years of Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency.

In 2019, when the Pew Research Center released its most recent poll of public trust in the government, only 17 percent of Americans trusted their government. It's so bad that throughout 2020 armed protesters showed up nationwide to protest the "tyranny" of having to wear masks during a pandemic, and then stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the election, all cheered on by the then-President of the United States and multiple rightwing media outlets.

This is no accident; it's the result of a four-decades-long campaign by some of America's richest people to tear apart the governing fabric of our nation, kicked off by their man, Ronald Reagan, proudly proclaiming at his January 20, 1981, inauguration that, "[G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."

Put yourself in the place of the heir to a multimillion-dollar fossil fuel empire, a situation akin to the "heroic" brother and sister who inherited a railroad from their dad in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged:
  • If you don't have to pay to dispose of cancer-causing byproducts from your refineries but can simply vent them into the air, and you make more money.
  • If you can cut wages and threaten employees because they don't have a union, you make more money.
  • If you can run a pipeline across sacred Native American land atop a major national aquifer with minimal safety oversight, you make more money.
  • If you can hide your money from the IRS because the agency has had its budget slashed so badly that it can no longer do expensive audits of morbidly rich people, you can keep more of the money you've made.
  • If you can get the government to cut social programs and public education, thus lowering your taxes, you can keep more of the money you've made.

So how do you pull this off, when every one of these things hurts average Americans?

Easy. Just embark on a 40-year-long campaign, through think tanks, right-wing media, and massive PR efforts to convince average Americans that government is the cause of, not the solution to, their problems. Convince working-class Americans that gutting government is a good thing that will ultimately help them in some mystical, magical way through the incredible "invisible hand" of the marketplace.

Lewis Powell, a lawyer for Big Tobacco, launched the movement to do just this with his infamous memo in 1971, and billionaires have funded and promoted politicians who jump on board the "government is evil" bandwagon ever since.

And it's largely worked, if the "trust in government" statistics compiled by the Pew Research Center since 1958 are accurate.

Back in 2011, I was up late one night watching, as I recall, Bloomberg News on a hotel TV. The American host was interviewing a very wealthy German businessman at a conference in Singapore.

Amidst questions about the business climate and the conference, the host asked the German businessman what tax rate he was "suffering under" in his home country. As I recall, the businessman said, "A bit over 60 percent, when everything is included."

"How can you handle that?" asked the host, incredulous.

The German shrugged his shoulders and moved the conversation to another topic.

A few minutes later, the American reporter, still all wound up by the tax question, again asked the businessman how he could possibly live in a country with such a high tax rate on very wealthy and successful people. Again, the German deferred and changed the subject.

The reporter went for a third try. "Why don't you lead a revolt against those high taxes?" he asked, his tone implying the businessman was badly in need of some good old American rebellion-making.

The German businessman paused for a long moment and then leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees, his clasped hands in front of him pointing at the reporter as if in prayer. He stared at the man for another long moment and then, in the tone of voice an adult uses to correct a spoiled child, said simply, "I don't want to be a rich man in a poor country."

There are a few wealthy Americans who understand this. But the billionaires who fund the Republican Party and right-wing media think it's perfectly fine to rip the financial and political guts out of their own nation if it makes them a few extra bucks.

They've funded and facilitated movements like the Tea Party and the Boogaloo Bois, media outlets like Fox News and Breitbart, and organizations like the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, and ALEC. They throw piles of money at Republican politicians, so long as they never stray far from the "deregulate, cut, denigrate" line about American government.

And over and over again, they've been successfully pulling this off for the past 40 years. The most recent example is the disaster we saw in Texas just in the past two weeks.

As investigative reporter Greg Palast reports, "Until 1992, the USA had just about the lowest electricity prices in the world and the most reliable system. For a century, power companies had been limited by law to recovering their provable costs plus a 'reasonable,' i.e. small, profit. But in 1992, George H. W. Bush, in the last gasps of his failed presidency, began to deregulate the industry." Reaganism struck again.

Similarly, a Morning Consult poll was just released with this headline: "With Congressional Stimulus Fight Looming, 76% of Voters Back $1.9 Trillion Plan, Including 60% of Republicans." Yet every single billionaire-owned Republican in Congress opposes this.

As this nation shudders from a crisis of confidence in government during a deadly pandemic that has-unnecessarily-killed more than 500,000 of our fellow citizens, let's remember who brought this about. And all for a few extra pieces of gold.

-Thom

Originally posted on thomhartmann.medium.com.

Comments

Riverplunge's picture
Riverplunge 33 weeks 5 days ago
#1

Next to Corporations and Wall St., Lot88to is a large source of displaced-devalued money

You win the Lot88to. You become a millionaire

The other half of the Lot88to money winnings was originally promised to schools - It never got there.

The millionaires will be the new lower class as time goes on.

God knows what the average person or poor will be.. Dead?

DrRichard 33 weeks 5 days ago
#2

True Thom, no one would laugh at Captain Renault's feigned surprise at being, "Shocked, shocked, by gambling at Ric's." Or cheer Felix, James Bond's CIA pal, today. Maybe it's good to be more cynical--the federal government certainly abused its trust at times. But it's awful when few believe the hardworking honest people there are doing their best for the citizens. And doing what individuals cannot do for themselves (try inspecting your local bridges and airliners before using them).

And Riverplunge, to answer your question the average person will be a feudal serf living off the crumbs swept from the tables of the top lords. They'll be told to keep singing a song about being in a land full of "Free and Brave" people. And they'll even believe it too.

The process of course long ago Began. You can see how one industry of independent owners after another has consolidated. Admittedly some of this is due to economies of scale and changes in technology, but not becominga cog in a big corporation is getting harder and harder. Just to name some professions, ask any physician, trucker, pharmacist, or farmer.

Riverplunge's picture
Riverplunge 33 weeks 5 days ago
#3

DrRichard, ironically enough. To add the the mayhem; I just heard today that all public stadiums in Wisconsin will be forced to play the national anthem. To me, the easiest way to get someone to hate something is to force them to do it, see it, or to listen to it.. But the evil in this country is way smarter - Once they see that the first ploy doesn't work they will make them think that it was their idea.

jollyjaws's picture
jollyjaws 33 weeks 5 days ago
#4

Unfortunately the Nazis didn't stop after Germany. They were brought here. They have been diseasing America for decades. What people don't understand is that there is a plan above what we're seeing. The elite above our elite are directing the collapse of the entire world. Fascism did not go away it just has remained hidden and it's purpose retooled. Infest and disease the system from within and you own the country. It's only a matter of time. we have a division of people still in the country that believe the Republicans are the good ones. That division is allowing the schism in our government from our government at the top realms to destroy us. This is not just the conservatives. It is across the board. It's called dualism and you pretend that you have two different parties and both parties are on the same team. The goal is destruction no matter what you pretend your beliefs are. Add controlled media and controlled opposition and voila.
The billionaires in the world are directing this. All you have to do is see what's happening in Davos Switzerland beyond closed doors they are planning global reset to control the entire planet because they feel they're better than anyone else and if you don't you're going to be hauled away you're not going to eat and you're not going to have a place to stay because the entire system will be controlled.
It's ingenious to add a pandemic to further distract and lock up the citizens. Unfortunately people don't understand what's going on and will gladly give away their freedoms for a mask and a vaccine that most likely will never come to save Americans from what's coming to them. It's all a stage play. The elite know that people just want to live and they don't understand how anybody could do this to them it doesn't even cross their minds that it could be done to them even after Germany!!

deepspace's picture
deepspace 33 weeks 4 days ago
#5

It's called false equivalency, bothsidesism, and wild conspiracy theory, but your salient point that unholy rich bastards are impoverishing the world's unwashed masses (everyone who is not them) is basically accurate. It's certainly an uphill battle to wrest control from the latest manifestation of a medieval system of inherited royalty, where the kings and queens of old are today's rentier class who control most of the world's wealth. Sure, Democrats have their frustrating shortcomings, but it's simply wrong to place both parties into the same deplorable basket.

Republicans by and large, from the rank and file to the millionaires in Congress and the billionaires on Wall Street, think that hopelessly politicizing every goddamn thing they can think of, creating out of thin air wedge issues that defy common sense and that do not and should not belong in the realm of petty politics (science, climate destruction, renewable energies, war, domestic terrorism, racism, police reform, poverty, living wages for the backbone of the economy, healthcare, higher education, and even wearing masks during a once-a-century deadly pandemic for chrissake -- to name a few of the most critical issues off the top of the head), is their ticket to power as a minority party. WTF!

What if Democrats wholeheartedly adopted similar ruthless tactics and took it to the next level?

If you are a Republican and:

- don't wear a mask and don't practice social distancing and then get COVID, you won't receive treatment in a hospital, which must protect its limited resources for the more deserving.

- refuse the vaccine, you will be ostracized from society and isolated in Stephen Miller's leftover child-cages far away from other living things. (Miller will be cleaning the toilets.)

- live in Texas -- the (LMAO) fiercely independent energy capital of the world -- when the power grid inevitably collapses and goes dark for days on end during freezing temperatures, you won't get any "big-guvmut" federal aid. (Pull yourselves up by your broken bootstraps, ya lazy bastards, that is unless your fingers are too damn numb, in which case it's tough luck, Charlie.)

- deny human-caused global climate destruction, you won't be allowed to ride around in any gas-powered conveyances. (Hey, bicycling might shrink that disgusting beer gut.)

- display threatening weapons of war on civilian streets while wearing mail-order, mix-and-match military attire, like a ridiculous toy soldier, you will be drafted into the real military and sent to the real front lines to act out your violent fantasies against real enemies. (Heads up: Sarge's first order will be to clean your weapons obsessively; the fcking sand gets in everywhere!)

- advocate for white privilege, you will be beaten senseless by a black cop, if not shot on sight just for having white skin.

- advocate against universal, single-payer healthcare, your private insurance premiums will be inexorably increased until you can't afford any coverage that's worth a shit. Welcome to third-world status and try not to get sick or injured or, god forbid, grow old. (Numerous studies estimate that a Medicare-for-all system would save everyone a lot of money and would offer much better coverage than our current predatory, for-profit system. Welcome to the league of first-world nations.)

- advocate against a living wage, your blue-collar wages or white-collar salary will be reduced to $7.25 an hour or to $1,160 a month, respectively, and will never be adjusted for inflation.

- advocate against taxpayer-funded higher education (think dinging the greedy billionaires who depend upon an educated workforce to populate their monopolies), you will be sent back to the lower grades to school you on economic competitiveness in a highly technical world where Americans are inexcusably falling behind.

- advocate for voter-suppression laws, you will be disenfranchised for life.

- incite an insurrection against the people's democracy, you will be hung by a violent mob on the makeshift gallows hastily erected on the Capitol grounds.

- live in Mar-a-Lago, you will be deported to a homeless shelter south of the border (Mexico will pay for it.), and your confiscated mansion will be converted into an emergency triage facility for Floridians who are suffering under the Trumpian regime of Ron DeSantis. (Democrats also might have to confiscate several thousand palatial mansions across the nation from the one-percenters to accommodate the burgeoning crowds of homeless who are priced out of the fantasy "American dream" and are living in a real American nightmare.)

- your name is Lindsey Graham or Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley or Kevin McCarthy or ...well, just fck you and every other two-faced, white-ass hypocrite who sucks Trump's tiny dick in a pathetic bid for his willfully, woefully ignorant voters.

alis volat's picture
alis volat 33 weeks 4 days ago
#6

Oldest story in the world the power hungry rich-bitches con the rest of the world into fighting each other while they steal what they want.

When you make a donation to the food pantry or Goodwill, do you care if it goes to a Republican? When a Republican gives to the Red Cross, do you think they ask if it will go to a Democrat?

A favorite thing I read was a letter written by a woman living on the prairie way back when. This place had horrible heat, cold, storms and droughts. People from her area passing through needed to be provided water, food, and shelter in certain situations. She hated some of them, but she did it. Folks knew damn well the next time the person in need could be them or a loved one.

With the tools of the 21st Century, we are finally able to get together and combat the rich-bitches' agenda. In President Biden's words, there are enough of us. We are just getting started on equal justice and opportunities. I stopped arguing with the hopeless (as in those with no hope) long ago. That is just how their brain works. Thom is giving us the history and facts, and when you find someone actually listening, that's the ammo you need!

Legend 33 weeks 4 days ago
#7

You can bet that most of these Billionaires will be supporting Trump. They expect and get return on investment.

The Republican Party is not reorgainzing, it is regrouping around Trump. Watch this weeks quotes out of CPAC/QANON. Lot of Lies. The Republican Party has become the Republican Fascist Party and should be called that. They have become openly Fascist within. More and more ties are being made to the January 6th insurrection and the Republican Party.

Meanwhile at the State level Republicans are doing everything they can to restrict voting.

cuz's picture
cuz 33 weeks 4 days ago
#8

Right on jollyjaws and that is why the uber rich on the right and left wanted Trump out of office. He was unpredictable and the rich and powerful hate those that they cannot completely control.

Amazon's Bezos makes billions if the people are shopping from their homes.

Target and Walmart's profits soar as they are among the few that are allowed to fully operate while small businesses were locked down.

Zuckerberg raking in millions by keeping people in their homes and on their computers.

Buffett keeps his trains rolling.

Gates buying up farmland all over the country and telling us we all need to stop eating meat. "you will get used to the taste" were his words.

Huge stimulus(?) that is 90% pork little for the virus relief itself.

Billionaires telling us all what WE should be doing.

FOLLOW THE MONEY!

rostasi 33 weeks 4 days ago
#10

You better get that unhinged jaw fixed.

chickie's picture
chickie 33 weeks 3 days ago
#11

Isn't what you're suggesting facism?

deepspace's picture
deepspace 33 weeks 3 days ago
#12

No. Pointing out fascism and trying to eradicate it from our body politic is not some form of reverse fascism, even by a stretch of pretzel logic. But anti-democratic Republicans are not merely "suggesting" fascism; they're all in hook, line, and sinker.

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