Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dark Money: Book Review

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer is a superbly written and extensively documented book that tells a sickening story. It tells how a tiny group of the super wealthy, not from the 1% but from the top 1/100th of a percent, adopted the tactics of Lenin and Hitler to seize control of much of the American government and poison the minds of Americans against their own country. They combine immense wealth with low tactics like the big lie, character assassination, and intimidation with a long range strategic plan based on control of strategic opinion makers, a vast network of propaganda organizations loosely disguised as think tanks, and aggressive buying of influence in everything to from local legislative races to the oval office. Many of them have skirted the law or flouted it, their vast wealth enabling them to escape with fines and other wrist slaps.

Their aims are radical: dismantling every aspect of the modern progressive state except for protection of their own wealth. Environmental laws, worker safety and protection, public education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, anti-trust laws, income and inheritance taxes, and child labor laws are targets. Their success has been immense. Their representative were invited into the new Republican Speaker of the House's office before he was even sworn in, and they wrote his budget. The result has been a huge transfer of wealth from the ordinary citizens of the United States to them and their fellow members of the super rich. They have literally spent billions to hire a vast army of lawyers, talk show hosts, professors, PR men, politicians, and phony experts, but the rewards they have reaped are probably in the trillion dollar category.

There are perhaps a few dozen individuals who contribute most of the money for this radical action plan, but the Koch brothers, Charles and David, with a joint fortune of nearly 100 billion dollars, are very near the center of all the action. Charles Koch is the intellectual leader and chief architect of their strategy, and a principal funder of most of their actions.

It sickened me to read this book. I could only read a little bit at a time without falling into a depression of rage and despair. If one looks at the history of the republican form of government one sees a discouraging pattern of democratic rule transitioning to oligarchy and dictatorship. The wealthy use their wealth to control the government, and their control of the government to extract more and more of the society's wealth. The US is well on the way.

I have written several other comments on portions of the book and related matters here.