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Robert Reich: The Big-Lie Coup d’Etat

June 6, 2012

There is a massive campaign to discredit President Obama in advance of the 2012 election, and thanks to the Citizens United decision, there is no way of telling who's behind it.


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Image from Flickr via Steve Rhodes

By Robert Reich
By arrangement with Robert Reich

JP Morgan Chase,  Goldman Sachs, BP, Chevron, WalMart, and billionaires Charles and David Koch are launching a multi-million dollar TV ad buy Tuesday blasting President Obama over the national debt.

Actually, I don’t know who’s behind this ad because there’s no way to know. And that’s a big problem.

The front group for the ad is Crossroads GPS, the sister organization to the super PAC American Crossroads run by Republican political operative Karl Rove. Because Crossroads GPS is a tax-exempt nonprofit group, it can spend unlimited money on politics—and it doesn’t have to reveal where it gets the dough.

By law, all it has to do is spend most of the money on policy “issues,” which is a fig leaf for partisan politics.

Here’s what counts as an issue ad, as opposed to a partisan one. The narrator in the ad Crossroads GPS is launching solemnly intones: “In 2008, Barack Obama said, ‘We can’t mortgage our children’s future on a mountain of debt.’ Now he’s adding $4 billion in debt every day, borrowing from China for his spending. Every second, growing our debt faster than our economy,” he continues. “Tell Obama, stop the spending.”

This is a baldface lie, by the way.

Obama isn’t adding to the debt every day. The debt is growing because of obligations entered into long ago, many under George W. Bush–including two giant tax cuts that went mostly to the very wealthy that were supposed to be temporary and which are still going, courtesy of Republican blackmail over raising the debt limit.

In realty, government spending as a portion of GDP keeps dropping.

The Koch brothers’ network alone will spend $400 million over the next six months trying to defeat Obama.

As I said, I don’t know who’s financing this particular big lie, but there’s good reason to think it’s some combination of Wall Street, big corporations, and the billionaire Koch brothers.

According to the reliable inside-Washington source “Politico,” the Koch brothers’ network alone will spend $400 million over the next six months trying to defeat Obama, which is more than Senator John McCain spent on his entire 2008 campaign. Big corporations and Wall Street are also secretly funneling big bucks into front groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that will use the money to air anti-Obama ads, while keeping secret the identities of these firms. Looking at the all the anti-Obama super PACs and political fronts like Crossroads GPS, Politico estimates the anti-Obama forces (including the Romney campaign) will outspend Obama and pro-Obama groups by two to one.

How can it be that big corporations and billionaires will be spending unlimited amounts on big lies like this one, without any accountability because no one will know  where the money is coming from?

Since 2010 we’ve been witnessing a quiet, slow-motion coup d’etat whose purpose is to repeal every bit of progressive legislation since the New Deal.

Blame a majority of the Supreme Court in its grotesque 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision—as well as the IRS for lax enforcement that lets political front groups like Crossroads GPS or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pretend they’re not political.

But you might also blame something deeper, more sinister.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist (you can’t have served in Washington and seriously believe more than two people can hold on to a big story without it leaking), but I fear that at least since 2010 we’ve been witnessing a quiet, slow-motion coup d’etat whose purpose is to repeal every bit of progressive legislation since the New Deal and entrench the privileged positions of the wealthy and powerful—who haven’t been as wealthy or as powerful since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.

Its technique is to inundate America with a few big lies, told over and over (the debt is Obama’s fault and it’s out of control; corporations and the very rich are the “job creators” that need tax cuts; government is the enemy and its regulations are strangling the private sector; unions are bad; and so on), and tell them so often they’re taken as fact.

Then, having convinced enough Americans that these lies are true, it will take over the White House, Congress, and remaining states that haven’t yet succumbed to the regressive right (witness Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin).

I desperately hope I’m wrong, but all there’s growing evidence I may be right.

Author Image

Robert B. Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.

Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.

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