INTRO: A bus from Washington D.C. is driving around the country. The bus is covered by photos and words like “Stop the Koch Brothers Greed Agenda.” The bus stopped in Detroit Tuesday and just one reporter from a website showed up. It drove on to the state capitol in Lansing and only one reporter showed up there. That was Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus.
The bus trip is being paid for by a group called Patriot Majority. They’re a non-profit 501-c-4, legal lobbyists, based in Washington. Their shiny blue bus parked between the capitol and the governor’s office. They contacted Michigan State University professor Jim Anderson. He stood next to the bus and read a letter. He had an audience of ten.
“Dear Governor Snyder,”
Anderson grew up on a farm on the fruit ridge north of Grand Rapids. Other than five years at Yale University, he’s lived in Michigan all his life.
“We write to you as Americans who want to stop the billionaire Koch Brothers and other special interests from destroying the American dream. Charles and David Koch have pledged to spend nearly $400 million alone to pursue their radical agenda which includes restricting voting rights, privatizing our schools and fire departments, privatizing social security and medicare and eliminating benefits for veterans and the military. Meanwhile, they support policies that give enormous tax breaks to mega billionaires like themselves.”
The Koch Brothers are each worth about $50 billion dollars. They’re from Kansas. They make Angel Soft toilet paper, Brawny paper towels and Dixie Cups. Their main business is oil and gas. They paid a $30 million federal penalty for pollution in six states. In June, they raised millions at a fundraiser for Mitt Romney.
Professor Anderson and two people from the Patriot Majority bus walked to the lobby of the Romney Building, named for Mitt Romney’s dad. It’s the current governor’s office.
But Snyder’s top two communications people walked past them out the door. Two junior staffers emerged to accept the letter. They’ve given no response since then.
‘Happy Days’ was a popular ABC TV series. It showed nostalgia for the 1950′s. The show might be considered fluff. But prosperity 60 years ago was real.
“Some of the best years of the American economy, we were operating with corporate taxes up over 50%, with tax rates on the very wealthy as high as 90%. We survived and the wealthy survived..”
Back out on the lawn of the state capitol, professor Anderson continued his lecture. He teaches economic history at MSU.
“One of the myths of taxation is that higher taxes weaken the economy.”
The Koch Brothers and Mitt Romney want to cut student loans. Professor Anderson says THAT will hurt the economy.
“If the GI bill of rights had been a loan program the U.S. economy probably would have gone back into a long term stagnation or even depression by 10-15 years after the end of the war. I believe that we should eliminate all student loans and replace them with outright grants and scholarships. That would mean doubling the Pell grants.”
The Kochs have funded the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Tea Party. On the capitol lawn last year, country star Lee Greenwood sang. Another Koch brothers group called Americans for Prosperity, held a rally. A Lansing car mechanic named Gene was there.
“Yeah I work here in town. Make less than $40,000 a year. I’m just a hard working blue blooded American that wants good moral responsibility, good fiscal responsibility and good leadership to do it.”
Thomas Frank, a native Kansan, wrote a book in 2004 called ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas.’ It argues that wealthy republicans pretend to want school prayer and fight abortion and immigration. This distracts poor republicans from tax cuts that help the wealthy and hurt the poor. I asked Eugene the Lansing mechanic about this concept. And I asked why his personal responsibility code didn’t apply to the Wall Street bail outs.
“It does. But there’s nothing I can do about their greed. I’d rather have a system where we have a system to be generous or greedy than have a system where you don’t have a choice. The government is able to crack down on everyone and you have no freedom to do anything. So those guys laugh all the way to the bank. They do it on the backs of people who work really hard. And they jet set around the world. They have their fine wine dining clubs and it makes us all sick.”
So Eugene and other folks with Americans for Prosperity, will be voting for Romney.