As America braces for record reductions in federal spending on March 1st ( so-called sequestration), too little attention has focused on the forces driving today’s “shrink government” agenda, or why its financial and intellectual leaders are so willing to go to such extremes measures.
The individuals most-involved (measured in money and ideas) have direct commercial interests that indeed benefit from weaker scientific monitoring of weather, less regulation of pollution, and stopping the shift in subsidies from fossil fuels to clean energy. All of the above are expected under sequestration (see links below), and each has its own injurious impact on our global climate crisis.
The Members of Congress who are advancing today’s unprecedented fiscal austerity are primarily Tea Party ideologues put in power by the world’s two wealthiest men, Charles and David Koch. The Kochs’ dark and dirty money has helped more anti-government extremists get into elected office than any other campaign contributor, outspending even Exxon. Some say their record spending in the 2012 elections by didn’t buy them much, but Congress’ ongoing obsession with self-contrived budget crises makes clear that the Kochs are more than ever defining the debate in Washington, and keeping their opponents on the defensive, even as Republicans remain deeply divided.
“Shrink government” is central to the “ economic freedom” ideology that the Kochs espouse, and it is the inspiration for a critical mass of Congressmen who went to Washington to enact ultra-libertarian laws. It’s also an idea that’s key to the Kochs’ keeping their carbon-based wealth, as “less government” means more freedom for businesses to produce whatever they please, as they please. That principle is pretty important if your business plan is based on pumping carbon from underground and dumping it up in our atmosphere.
Sequestration’s across-the-board approach to less government perfectly embodies the Kochs’ big ideas and specific policy prescriptions, particularly by:
But it could all backfire. If hardline conservatives don’t cave and serious economic and political pain ensues, then most Americans appear to be ready to blame the extremist conservatives. Until today’s ultra-free market ideologues are isolated, and reasonable Republicans are allowed to step out in support of balanced approaches to budgeting and urgent, ambitious actions to curb carbon, it is hard to see what will end America’s Koch problem.