IRS Did Not Unfairly Target Tea Party.

In 2013, it was alleged that the IRS had subjected Tea Party groups that applied for nonprofit status to extra scrutiny. Led by Fox News, hate radio and Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Oversight committee, the right howled with indignity. The IRS Director was removed from office. IRS agent, Lois Lerner was vilified. There were even charges that President Obama ordered the IRS to deny right wing groups nonprofit status.

It made for a sensational story. Unfortunately, it was based on a lie.

Recently, ThinkProgress offered proof. The organization reviewed IRS documents it received as a result of the Freedom of Information Act. The documents requested are lists of words that would trigger IRS agents to give extra scrutiny to organizations that requested 501(c)(3) charitable status. According to Josh Israel, the author of a ThinkProgress report, “The 22 ‘Be On the Look Out’ key words list distributed to staff reviewing applications between August 12, 2010 and April 19, 2013, included more explicit references to progressive groups, ACORN successors, and medical marijuana organizations than to Tea Party entities.” You can read the entire report by clicking here.

Nevertheless, the real problem isn’t whether nonprofit groups representing one side of our political spectrum are targeted more than others. The real problem is that 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofits are allowed to engage in politics at all. By applying for nonprofit status, these groups purport to be primarily charitable or educational in nature (the language of the IRS rule governing nonprofits was changed from “exclusively” to “primarily” in 1959.) Yet one nonprofit after another has been found to spend most of its time and money sponsoring political ads targeting specific candidates than educating the public.

No one has abused nonprofit status more than the Koch brothers. The “Kochtopus” of non-profits used to influence elections is both extensive and unprecedented. In 2012 alone, they spent $383 million to help conservative candidates. And they were just getting organized. Since then, they have expanded their complex network of nonprofit “social welfare” groups and trade associations to allow them to spend even more money to influence elections.

They rely on nonprofits in order to take advantage of tax loopholes that allow them to hide the list of donors.

More recently, they have embraced the use of “disregarded entities” – Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) that are “owned” by nonprofit organizations and considered part of them for tax purposes. So far, this is a political tactic used exclusively by the Kochs to disguise their political spending. Unlike their more famous shill groups such as Americans for Prosperity and 60 Plus, the names of these groups are often just a jumble of letters such as PRDIST, RION, TOHE, ORRA, TRGN, SLAH, POFN, RGSN, TDNA, DAS MGR, and STN. Although these organizations are prohibited from engaging in politics, that is clearly their primary focus. And the amount of money spent by these groups is staggering.

The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal and the Sunlight Foundation studied the spending of such groups since January 2013. Contrary to IRS rules, these groups spent at least $24.6 million on ads that named specific candidates. And that was in an off year for elections! Koch-funded groups have even spent money to influence local elections, such as school board elections.

Clearly, billionaires are trying to subvert our democracy. But they can be stopped. We don’t even need a constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court ruling to stop them. All we need is for the IRS to act; to change its rules prohibiting nonprofits from engaging in politics – even political “education.”

Conservative Death Wish?

For nearly two decades, conservatives have denied…no, scoffed at…climate change. The Koch brothers paid scientists to create reports showing that climate change was a fraud. Republicans first created, then voted against, the idea of Cap and Trade. The Tea Party pushed the Agenda 21 conspiracy saying that a UN plan for global sustainability was a blatant attempt to create a one-world government. As a result, climate change is not only continuing. It’s accelerating at a pace faster than the worst case scenario climate scientists predicted some 20 years ago.

The glaciers on Greenland are melting at the rate of more than 27 feet every year. The Arctic ice pack is melting. Even the ice shelves and glaciers on Antarctica are melting, prompting climate scientists to predict truly catastrophic results.

It’s estimated that just the melting of Greenland’s glaciers alone will result in a sea level rise of roughly 21 feet, flooding 80 of the world’s 100 largest cities! Such a rise will displace approximately one-third of the world’s population and flood many of America’s largest cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and more. And that’s just from the ice on Greenland!

Far from being frightened by that prospect, many conservative Christians actually welcome the news. They view the crisis as Armageddon…the return of Christ. They even hope to speed the event and the resulting “rapture.” Traditional Republicans fail to recognize the crisis because they believe that acting to prevent climate change would cause harm to the economy and the large, multinational corporations that contribute to their campaigns. More extreme Republicans can’t accept the possibility that Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was an undeniable truth. Tea Party Parasites simply don’t believe in science. And far too many others simply don’t know and don’t care.

All of this might be humorous if the consequences of climate change weren’t so severe.

Addressing the problem would not only stave off disaster. It could re-energize our economy. In order to decrease the burning of fossil fuels, we could be building a robust alternative energy industry that would create tens of thousands of US jobs and lead to the export of goods and technology overseas. Restructuring our cities to replace automobile traffic with modern, efficient mass transit would make our cities cleaner, more liveable and create additional jobs. Rebuilding our cross-country rail system to replace long distance trucking would lower transportation costs, reduce traffic on our highways and reduce pollutants in our air. Re-fitting diesel trucks to burn cleaner LP gas would not only reduce CO2 emissions, it would help reduce chronic diseases such as asthma. Certainly, some industries will suffer. But those industries would eventually fail anyway and they’ll be replaced by new, more sustainabile industries.

The cost to do all of this will be many, many times less than the cost of moving or rebuilding just one of our major cities faced with rising sea levels. In all likelihood, the cost could be offset by a single catastrophic hurricane caused by climate change and a couple of seasons of fighting the growing number of wildfires caused by global warming.

We can do this! We can actually fight climate change and profit at the same time. Just because conservatives have a death wish, that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to go along with them.

Supreme Injustice.

The Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon et al v Federal Election Commission is the next step in our march from democracy to plutocracy allowing the rich to dominate our political system even more than they already have. In a series of 5-4 decisions with “conservatives” in the majority, the Court has ruled that money equals free speech; that corporations are people (at least with regard to political contributions); and that there can be no limits on the amount of money the ruling class can spend on elections.

For many years, wealthy individuals and large corporations have enjoyed greater influence and access to elected representatives than ordinary citizens. With this ruling, the wealthy will be able to literally buy them. The Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelman are already spending billions through a complex network of Political Action Committees and Super PACs in order to sway our elections. Now they and other billionaires will be unleashed to spend monumental sums to elect candidates that will allow them to control Congress.

It’s fitting that this Supreme Court ruling comes on the heels of the death of Charles Keating, Jr. A financier and developer who was a friend of Ronald Reagan, Keating was indicted in the savings and loan scandal that cost the federal government billions. Prior to the failure of his Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, he contributed $1.3 million to the election campaigns of five US Senators in order to buy their influence to help fend off federal regulators. After Lincoln eventually failed, Keating was charged and convicted of 73 counts of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy. Although his conviction was later overturned, he eventually admitted to four counts of wire and bankruptcy fraud.

Given this latest Supreme Court ruling, there are likely to be many more Charles Keatings – those who will use their money to control tax laws; to fend off federal regulators; to eliminate regulations altogether; to scam the government and ordinary people; and to buy their way out of any legal challenges.

It has often been said that elections have consequences. It’s true. I think it’s no exaggeration to say that our democracy is now suffering the consequences of a Supreme Court majority hell-bent on unraveling our Constitution and placing us at the mercy of a government run by a privileged few…a majority given lifetime appointments by Republican presidents.

All Men Are Created Equal?

That’s what our Declaration of Independence stated. But it wasn’t true. In fact, African-Americans were considered three-fifths of a person and held in slavery for nearly a hundred years longer. Native Americans were slaughtered and herded onto reservations in order to steal their land. Chinese-Americans were virtually enslaved to build our railroads. And women were denied the right to vote for nearly 150 years.

Even today equality still does not exist.

People of color are many times more likely to live in poverty and to be imprisoned. Gay and lesbians are only now beginning to win equal rights to marry those they love. Women are paid less for doing the same work as men. And, according to some, the plight of the wealthy is even worse. They claim to be victims of their own success and good fortune – that they are victims of class warfare. Some have even likened their plight to the Jews prior to the Holocaust.

Hmmm….

The wealthiest one percent of our population owns an overwhelming percentage of the wealth in the US yet, thanks to loopholes, they pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes. They invest large portions of their wealth in offshore tax havens. They use their wealth to buy influence and access to government. They are even treated differently by our courts. The Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech, so they can speak more loudly than anyone else. (In fact, the Koch brothers are now using their money to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.) And if they break the law, they are seldom punished.

You may remember the case of the Texas teen found to be suffering from “Affluenza.” Despite the fact that he killed four people as the result of drunk driving, he was “sentenced” to an exclusive, and expensive, rehab facility.

Now there is the case of a duPont heir who was given probation for raping his three-year-old daughter because the judge decided that he “wouldn’t do well in prison.” Wouldn’t do well? Who does? When have you ever heard of a case in which a court was concerned that a poor person might not do well in prison? Some celebrate Sheriff Joe’s “Tent City” which imprisons ordinary citizens in tents without heat or air conditioning; with no toilets or running water; with punishments of bread and water; with two vegetarian meals a day (Sheriff Joe recently decided that even his notorious green baloney sandwiches are too expensive and cutting into the profit margins of his wife’s food service business). Has any court ever voiced concern that a convicted felon might not do well there? No…more like HELL NO!

Prisoners in Tent City have died from the heat without repercussions to Sheriff Joe or the facility. Yet no court has worried that other prisoners in the facility “wouldn’t do well.” Such concern is only voiced for the very wealthy on the rare occasions their highly-paid attorneys fail to get them acquitted.

All men created equal? It was a nice sentiment by Jefferson and the Founding Fathers. But it’s still only a dream.

Follow The BIG Money.

In a previous post, I referenced a study from Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box which found that Democratic presidents have been better for the economy than Republican presidents despite GOP claims to the contrary.

The question is why. After all, isn’t the GOP the party of business? In a word, yes, but only big business…BIG, multinational business. As a result, corporate profits, productivity, stock market prices and plentiful supplies of both cheap labor and cheap raw materials are valued above all else.

One only need look at who contributes the most money to GOP election campaigns to understand that the party doesn’t care about the needs of ordinary citizens. The party’s biggest contributors are large corporations, corporate lobbyists, the US Chamber of Commerce, plus big oil, big Pharma, big banking and other industry organizations, as well as obscenely wealthy individuals such as the Koch brothers. A recent report by The Washington Post stated that a “Koch-backed political network, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012.”

To the GOP, ordinary citizens are necessary for votes. But their votes can be bought with massive, and deceptive, ad campaigns designed to create a culture of divisiveness, anger and fear.

On the other hand, contributions for Democratic election campaigns tend to come from labor unions representing police, firefighters, teachers, workers and social organizations. The rest of the financing tends to come from individuals of every income strata. As a result, Democratic candidates tend to serve the needs of their constituents. Without their support, the candidates have little chance of being elected.

Obviously, it’s not quite so cut and dried.

Members of both parties can be swayed to pass legislation to benefit large contributors. Democrats can be romanced by large corporations offering to make large investments and to create new jobs in their districts. Such “incentives” can even affect the policies of the White House.

But the point stands. Which party do you think would be more responsive to individuals? The party that receives most of its campaign financing from large, multinational corporations and ideological billionaires? Or the party that receives a large portion of its campaign financing from working people?

I think you know the answer.

Conservatives Take Aim At Government Labor Unions.

This year, conservatives are gathering lumps of coal for most Americans’ Christmas stockings. We can soon expect to see multi-million dollar assaults on many of the nation’s remaining social institutions and programs. At the federal level, conservatives in Congress are seeking to cut another $4 billion to 40 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps. They are also targeting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance. And they are fighting attempts to increase the minimum wage despite the fact that large corporations have raked in record profits since the beginning of the Great Recession, and that wage growth is our main impediment to economic growth.

Conservatives are facing a severe time crunch in order to accomplish these goals. You see, the economy is finally showing signs of real growth. That means more Americans are working and paying taxes, thereby reducing the drain on social programs and lowering the deficit. As the deficit disappears so, too, does the conservatives’ primary argument for slashing social programs and cutting spending.

If conservatives are going to force more austerity and “personal responsibility” on poor Americans, squash labor unions, slash corporate taxes and head off a growing environmental movement, they have to do it now while the deficit is still inflated due to the effects of the Great Recession.

That’s why, as The Guardian reported, the State Policy Network funded by the Koch brothers is coordinating an all-out assault on government and social institutions in 34 states beginning early next year. The focus is on cutting pensions and wages for government workers, cutting budgets for public schools through voucher programs, and combatting attempts to reduce greenhouse gases. But, undoubtedly, the primary goal of the campaign is to rid the country of labor unions, particularly those in the public sector.

Of course, virtually none of their goals are actually good for our country. They are, however, great for large corporations, their executives and their investors.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. Conservatives have been fighting organized labor since the 1800’s. Labor unions grew in the 1930’s following the Great Depression when workers realized that the economic collapse was caused by the rich and their insatiable appetites for more wealth. But labor unions have been under attack ever since. The attacks accelerated during the Reagan administration leading to a decline in union membership, the elimination of more than 85,000 pension plans since 1980, and the export of hundreds of thousands of American jobs. As more high-paying labor jobs were sent offshore, union membership further declined. At the same time, large corporations like Walmart fought to block the unionization of their workers. As a result, union membership declined 11.3 percent in 2012 alone. Simultaneously, corporate profits have soared. But that largess has not been shared with workers.

There is, however, one sector of our economy in which labor unions are alive and well. The percentage of union membership among government workers is now 5 times higher than for workers in private companies. Given their contempt for unions and government, that figure makes public sector unions a tantalizing target for people like the Koch brothers. Their control of workers and the disassembling of government won’t be complete until labor unions no longer exist, corporate taxes are eliminated and the federal government is reduced to the Department of Defense. (After all, somebody has to defend them from those who would like to claim part of their wealth.)

Want to learn more about the attacks on American workers? I highly recommend The Betrayal of the American Dream by Barlett and Steele.

Falling Behind Russia.

For those Americans who still consider Russia a rival of the US, I have bad news. We have fallen behind the Great Russian Bear in one important economic category: Russia is one of the few nations on the planet with more economic disparity than ours.

In the US, the top one percent own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 80 percent own just 7 percent. But in Russia, just 110 people own 35 percent of the nation’s wealth! According to a report by Credit Suisse, “Russia has the highest level of wealth inequality in the world, apart from small Caribbean nations with resident billionaires.”

Damn those Russians! We used to be number one!

Of course, this means our greedy billionaires will need to step up their game. We know they’re trying. The Koch brothers funded the government shutdown over “Obamacare” in order to maintain the status quo. Wall Street, the health care industry, and defense contractors have increased their lobbying groups in Washington. And the US Supreme Court is currently hearing a court case that may allow the obscenely wealthy to better purchase politicians and political favors under the guise of free speech.

But even that may not be enough. So the bought-and-paid-for Teapublicans are working overtime to privatize Social Security, Medicare, our military, prisons, schools and every other institution in the US. The claim is that this will make the institutions run more efficiently and more cheaply. But, in reality, privatization merely makes these institutions less responsive while adding to their costs and the corporations’ bottom lines.

But who are the poor and the middle class to complain? This is about national pride. We’re exceptional!  We have to be number one. USA! USA! USA!

Looking For Anonymity.

When a GOP congressman was asked if he would vote for a “clean” resolution to end the government shutdown, he said, “Sure, I’d vote for it. I think probably 140 of my colleagues would vote for it if it was a secret ballot.”

Hmmmm….

In other words, GOP representatives are willing to do the right thing as long as nobody finds out! Why? Who are they afraid of? The obvious answer is the Tea Party. Traditional Republicans are terrified by the wacko wing of the party and the billionaire benefactors (aka the Koch brothers) who finance them. Traditional conservatives are now afraid they will be “primaried.”

In other words, they are cowards.

That may seem harsh, but if your actions…or, in this case, inactions…are going to damage the nation and millions of its citizens, shouldn’t you be able to muster enough courage to risk your job? If you know right from wrong, shouldn’t you do the right thing regardless of the consequences? After all, what good is holding onto your job if you’re embarrassed to tell people what you really think?

In reality, such an attitude goes beyond mere cowardice. It’s quite clearly treasonous.

These people were elected to represent their consituents. They took a pledge to uphold the Constitution. So where in the Constitution does it say that you place your job above the nation? Where does it say that you should refuse to fund the government; a government of the people, by the people, and for the people?

These same cowards have been led to the edge of a cliff. They have no way forward. But they refuse to retreat…at least not if anyone can see them. So they’re looking for cover. The only question remaining is whether or not they’ll screw up the courage to do the right thing. Or if they’ll follow their wacko leaders off the cliff like lemmings.

Whichever direction they choose, the future of our nation hangs in the balance.