Audio smuggled out of the right-wing billionaire benefactor Koch Brothers’ secret meeting in Beaver Creek last month has made headlines for the red-meat rhetoric it captured and for identifying the high-profile attendees who sneaked in and out of the event. The fact that Charles Koch welcomed the crowd by referring to the coming presidential election as a Saddam Hussein-style “mother of all wars” is unsurprising but also unsettling– and not just because it’s an aggressive overstatement. It’s unsettling because there’s a mystery tied to it. The vehemence of the call to action– the high-intensity language and the plea for round after round of million-dollar donations– seems poorly matched with the threat to the Kochs and their friends posed by the nation’s conservative Democratic president.
“Regulation” remains an evil word even in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, record Big Oil profits, and a finance industry spree of gambling and fraud born on Alan Greenspan’s unfettered Wall Street– a spree that brought the world economy to its knees and dealt out rewards to the high-flying architects of the disaster and jobless penury and loss to working class people all over the world.
Obama’s cabinet has been stacked with as many Wall Street beneficiaries and protectors as has been any recent administration. Longtime deregualtion champ Larry Summers stayed on board as chief economic adviser for two years, which he spent working mainly to reward the unrepentant finance industry. This month it has become clear that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is seeking to wring real cash for the victims of the great securitizations ponzi scheme, doesn’t stand a chance up against the Obama administration and the banks.
On larger economic questions, Obama’s priorities have dovetailed with the priorities of the right. The national policy now in effect is one of deficit-reduction austerity measures that will cut programs for the middle class while continuing to hand out tax breaks to corporations and to the billionaires looking to wage the mother of all wars against him from places like Beaver Creek.
Is there some major environment and energy policy Obama plans to take up?
This week Obama decided to pull back new national smog standards proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The decision bewildered medical and environmental experts.
Cap and trade? The chances of any version of that legislation becoming law in the United States under Obama, should he win another term, are negligible. Obama proved unable to bring the force of public opinion to bear on that matter when Americans still loved him. Republican officeholders who want to continue in their political careers are not allowed to believe in climate change and those men and women now hold a majority in Congress and will likely continue to do so for some time with or without the Kochs waging their mother of all wars.
So where comes the great threat to the Koch brothers and their fellow travelers?
Obama has continued or expanded nearly all of the controversial hawkish homeland security policies of the Bush era, refused to hold anyone in the government accountable for abuses of power, and won no significant reductions in the country’s out-of-control but nonetheless par-for-the-course military budget.
Is the threat for the oil-tycoon Kochs tied to the fact that the fossil fuel age has reached its peak? Is it that climate change is real? Is it that wind and solar and hydrogen power are becoming more efficient and more attractive to growing numbers of people? If so, none of that will change, even if another Texas governor becomes president and, in a mass rally of fasting and prayer on the National Mall, asks Jesus to bestow special blessings on the fuel sources of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Does the great threat the Kochs fear stem from social change? Is it that gay people can now get married in New York or that abortion remains legal in the United States? Obama was no champion of the former and has had no effect in stemming the historic legislative attack Republicans have waged on women’s health and privacy rights connected to family planning in Congress and in state capitals from coast to coast. Meantime, the military is lifting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell once and forever, and the fate of the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act now lies with the courts.
What do the Kochs hope to win with their mother of all wars?