Original Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jun/22/koch-brothers-social-security
By Robert Greenwald
The rightwing industrialists have spent millions funding opinion-forming propaganda to undermine a vital public service.
Documents and interviews unearthed in recent months by Brave New Foundation researchers illustrate a $28.4m Koch business that has manufactured 297 commentaries, 200 reports, 56 studies and six books distorting social security's effectiveness and purpose. Together, the publications reveal a vast cottage industry comprised of Koch brothers' spokespeople, front groups, thinktanks, academics and elected officials, which has built a self-sustaining echo chamber to transform fringe ideas into popular mainstream public policy arguments.
"The Koch brothers job is to do everything they can to dismember government in general," Senator Bernie Sanders says in this video. "If you can destroy social security, you will have gone a long way forward in that effort."
Koch Industries spent $857,000 on lobbyists in 2004, one year before George W Bush tried and failed to privatise social security. They also donated $104,660 to his campaign. The attacks on social security needed more time to stew in the echo chamber before they could be mainstream, and given the increase in lobbyists, they have risen dramatically. In the first two years of the Obama administration, the brothers spent $20m on lobbying, according to the Centre for Public Integrity. And they've diversified their donations to a slew of Republican opinion leaders – and strategic Democrats who oppose revenue increases like Senator Ben Nelson and Governor Andrew Cuomo. But traditional lobbying has now given way to the larger, more insidious propaganda campaign aimed at changing the terms of debate on social security.
The Koch brothers' echo chamber has successfully written the messaging for the AARP, a traditional defender of social security for all generations, which recently opened the door to cutting benefits. The Koch echo chamber begins with think tanks like the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and Mercatus Centre at George Mason University and the Reason Foundation, which owe their founding and achievements to Koch backing. These thinktanks take their $28.4m in Koch funding and produce hundreds of position papers distorting the long-term health of social security.
"The Koch brothers fund organisations, and you have economists and political scientists working there, and they are very, very good at getting on television," says Sanders. "They are very effective in getting their positions out into the media."
The authors of these hundreds of self-described policy studies, newsletters, commentaries and books are then paraded through television, print and online news media. Their distorted message is amplified through shows like Hannity, on Fox News, with its 3.3 million viewers per episode, or CNBC's Kudlow Report and its roughly 300,000 viewers per episode, night after night after night. Gradually, influential opinion-formers in venerable news outlets will also react and have already begun to referee disputes on new "middle ground" that has, over time and through the actions of AARP and the Koch echo chamber, grown tolerant of the Koch brothers' talking points. Eventually, elected officials react to the Koch echo chamber and typically shift their position for reelection or the next campaign.
Influential opinion-formers in venerable news outlets will react and have already begun to referee disputes on new "middle ground" that has, over time and through the actions of AARP and the Koch echo chamber, grown tolerant of the Koch brothers' talking points.
The investigation revealed Koch-supported policy fixes, and specific language repeated across each document, such as raising the retirement age or eliminating cost of living adjustments for social security dependents and beneficiaries. These Koch ideas percolate through the echo chamber and into the mainstream. The frequency and repetition of the arguments supplant more popular policy recommendations like scrapping the social security tax cap, which would free individuals earning more than $106,800 annually to pay taxes on all of their wages, like everyone else.
Almost overnight, it seems, a historic and popular public service like social security faces extinction. But it's no mystery how this has happened: behind that outcome, the Koch echo chamber has been churning for years.