The Quiet Coup d'Etat
By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog
P 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 the 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 spent 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 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.
As I said, I don't know who's financing this 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 inside-Washington "Politico," the Koch brothers' network alone is planning to 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 but keep their identities secret.
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 2 to 1 over the next six months.
How can it be that big corporations and billionaires will be spending unlimited amounts shoving out lies like this one - without any accountability - because no one will know where the money is coming from?
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 US 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 - financed by a handful of billionaires, along with some big companies and Wall Street banks, all intent on repealing every bit of progressive legislation since the New Deal by telling Americans a few big lies, over and over.
I desperately hope I'm wrong, but there's growing evidence I may be right.
Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor 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. He has written thirteen books, including "Locked in the Cabinet," "Reason," "Supercapitalism," "Aftershock," and his latest e-book, "Beyond Outrage." His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on publicradio.com and iTunes.