Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tea Party: A Koch Industry

Let’s call a spade a spade. Let’s call the Tea Party the Koch Party. The Koch Party is the tail that is wagging the GOP’s lead dog, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch bankrolled Tea Party groups from their beginning in addition to funding FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and Citizens for a Sound Economy. The Kochs have been referred to as “the financial engine of the Tea Party.” Their agenda opposes the extension of unemployment benefits, opposes a federal deficit, and calls for a freeze on federal regulations regarding oil, mining, and financial concerns. 

As the New Yorker reported, “In Washington, [David] Koch is best known as part of a family that has repeatedly funded stealth attacks on the federal government and on the Obama Administration in particular.” 

Just before Christmas Boehner’s song was that the Keystone XL pipeline was the keystone of the payroll tax cut bill. “We will make changes,” Speaker Boehner said. “I will guarantee you the Keystone pipeline will be in the bill when it goes back to the Senate.” Increasing Canadian oil imports benefits Koch Industries, which is responsible for close to a quarter of the oil sands crude that is imported into the United States. Pipeline approval would be a windfall for Koch, with its deep involvement in the Canadian petroleum industry.

The Senate gave the Speaker the song he wanted to sing, a payroll tax extension with the Pipeline project rider. It then adjourned and left Washington. But the Koch Party House members rebelled and the Speakers’ tune changed to another piece of brinkmanship, for which the 112th Congress has become renowned. At stake this time were 2 million Americans losing their long-term unemployment benefits and 160 million workers seeing their taxes rise by 2-percentage points.

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) slammed the GOP. “The public has to be concerned and wondering why on Earth are we not getting a payroll tax cut when everybody says they're for it?" The answer to her question is the Koch Party, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who opposed the Senate bill and urged his caucus to reject it.

Job creation is just the lip service that Speaker Boehner gave to the Keystone XL pipeline project. Blocking the middle class tax cut could cost between 400,000 and 1 million American jobs. Jobs are not on the Koch Party agenda. Its Tea Party surrogates do not understand who creates jobs or how a tax increase would impact consumer spending. Koch Industries is big business concerned about regulations and corporate tax loop-holes.  

Big business does not create jobs: it eliminates jobs. Small business creates jobs, but it can only create jobs when consumer spending goes up.

Well-funded Republicans do not grasp the concept that taking $40 a month away from the average US households is hardly a way to increase consumer spending. The non-partisan National Federation of Independent Business says, “It is going to take a rebound in consumer spending, particularly in the service sector to make a significant dent in the number of unemployed. The manufacturing sector is doing very well, but it does not create many jobs.”  

The Koch Party has had a strategy for the 2012 election. In order to thwart the re-election of President Barack Obama, it has exercised considerable effort to keep unemployment high and to restrain economic growth. The effect has been for the House of Representatives to abdicate its legislative responsibilities to the Senate and to foment a split between the two chambers.

However, the Koch Party strategy is flawed. Its usual Rupert Murdoch ally, the Wall Street Journal, critiqued, “After a year of the tea party House, Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have had to make no major policy concessions beyond extending the Bush tax rates for two years. Mr. Obama is in a stronger re-election position today than he was a year ago.”

The Republican Party has not necessarily sold out to big business such as Koch Industries. The GOP has been traditionally regarded as the party of business. But it is difficult and expensive to be elected to congress, let alone to the presidency. So Mitt Romney, who has been courting a Koch endorsement, took no sides on the payroll tax standoff. Nor has the Koch Party endorsed his candidacy. They do not trust him.

Koch money funded and organized its surrogate Tea Party wing of the GOP. However, the Koch Party has yet to produce anything other than obstruction of the legislative process, record low congressional approval ratings, and a downgrade of the US credit rating. The Koch Party assertion that such an achievement record is what voters sent them to do in 2010 is dubious. The Speaker and his party are going to take a hit. A big hit.

Originally published as Tea Party: A Koch Industry on Blogcritics.

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