By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 17, 2020 ~
Donald Trump is the man that the libertarian billionaire Charles Koch reluctantly accepted to play Hank Rearden in the Oval Office. Rearden was the fictional character in Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. The libertarian story line of the novel is that a federal government that grows too big with too many regulations is anathema to the corporate geniuses that should be running the country.
According to Nicholas Confessore, writing for the New York Times in January 2015, the Koch Brothers (Charles and David) and their billionaire minions that meet secretly twice a year at tony resorts to strategize on running the country, agreed to spend upwards of $900 million “to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history.” This, writes Confessore, would allow the Koch machine to “operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican Parties.”
Once Trump was in the Oval Office, the Koch machine, known then as Freedom Partners, wasted no time in laying out its agenda for Trump to follow. In a document titled “Roadmap to Repeal: Removing Regulatory Barriers to Opportunity,” the Koch front group lists the laws and regulations it expects to be repealed in the first 100 days of his administration. And like a dutiful courtier, the Trump administration responded quickly. Repeal the Paris Climate Accord – done. Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy – done. Gutting federal regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency – lots accomplished there.
Not only did Freedom Partners get its wish list checked off but its minions were invited into key jobs in the Trump administration to hasten the agenda. SourceWatch reported that as of April, 2018, 12 people who previously worked at Freedom Partners were working in the Trump administration.
One of those was Marc Short, previously President of Freedom Partners, who became Director of Legislative Affairs for Trump. Short is now Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence.
Kellyanne Conway, the TV defender-in-chief for the Trump administration, previously consulted for Freedom Partners, according to the public watchdog, Public Citizen. Then there was that inexplicable hiring by Trump of 12 Jones Day lawyers on the very day of his inauguration on January 20, 2017. According to Public Citizen, two of the main hires from Jones Day, White House Counsel Don McGahn and Ann Donaldson, Chief of Staff to McGahn, both previously represented Freedom Partners.
The Koch brothers (David died on August 23, 2019) were majority owners of the private fossil fuels company, Koch Industries. Charles Koch remains its Chairman and CEO. In July of 2018, when we investigated Freedom Partners and the Koch’s massive voter data operation called i360 for the news site CounterPunch, we found this:
“All but one of Freedom Partners’ 9-member Board of Directors is a current or former Koch company employee. The Board Chair is the same Mark Holden that is the General Counsel of Koch Industries.”
A previous Koch-related corporate front group, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), which split into Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks in 2004, was established in 1984 by David Koch and Richard Fink, who worked as an executive for Koch Industries from 1990 until his retirement in 2016. According to the in-depth research report, “To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party,” Citizens for a Sound Economy “supported the agendas of the tobacco and other industries, including oil, chemical, pharmaceutical and telecommunications, and was funded by them.”
According to a recent report by Reuters, the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) took up to $1 million from the Paycheck Protection Program. The nonprofit has been heavily funded by Koch foundation money for years as well as other corporate interests. According to ARI’s 2019 Annual Report, as a result of its shipping out free Ayn Rand books like Atlas Shrugged to high school and college students for years, it estimates “that more than 300,000 students now read Ayn Rand each year.”
In 2010 it was revealed that corporate money was contractually mandating the reading and teaching of Ayn Rand books at publicly funded universities. Gary H. Jones, an Associate Professor in the College of Business at Western Carolina University, wrote about the scandal in the July-August 2010 issue of Academe, the magazine of the American Association of University Professors. Jones wrote this:
“Recent donations from the charitable arm of BB&T, one of the nation’s largest banks, have raised the issue of external influence…At the center of the concerns about these donations is the requirement that objectivist Ayn Rand’s novels be taught in special courses extolling capitalism and self-interest…the BB&T gifts raise questions of both substance and procedure. Faculty members at several universities did not even know of the gifts or that BB&T’s donations had curricular implications until after the agreements were signed. At the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, for example, three years passed before faculty members learned that a million-dollar gift agreement establishing a new course contained language requiring both that Rand’s lengthy paean to laissez-faire capitalism, Atlas Shrugged, be assigned reading and that professors who teach that course ‘have a positive interest in and be well versed in Objectivism.’ ”
If Trump allowed the federal government to become the hero in saving the American people from the ravages of COVID-19, he would be undermining decades of Koch money infused into politics and the economics departments of colleges and universities across America to brainwash the public that big government is evil and only the corporations can save us.
So this is what Trump did: he refused to formally invoke the Defense Production Act but allowed all of the wonderful Hank Reardens in corporate America to voluntarily manufacture masks and ventilators.
Trump refused to issue a federal order for mask wearing because that is a federal regulation and he was put in the Oval Office to gut federal regulations, not impose more.
Even after a study by Victor Chernozhukov of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Hiroyuki Kasahara and Paul Schrimpf of the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics found that 40,000 lives could have been saved in a two-month period if there had been a federal mandate for employees working in public-facing businesses to wear masks, and the policy had been strictly obeyed, Trump issued no federal order on masks.
In fact, until just recently, Trump undermined the public’s wearing of masks by repeatedly appearing in public, and at mass indoor rallies, without wearing a mask.
He did this because this is what Kochs’ money infused into right-wing groups like the Tea Party for decades necessitated that he do. Without those right-wing supporters, there would be no one showing up at his rallies or voting for him on November 3.
Until mainstream media accurately confronts the corporate demons that reside in Donald Trump’s head, the nation will continue sliding into the pandemic pit from hell.