“It is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel.” – Anatole France
If you’re like me, you want to turn green and climb to the top of the Empire State building to swipe at planes when you hear average, non-billionaire Americans telling you what they heard on Fox News: “Right to work” is a victory for “choice.”
These newly minted right-wing “pro-choicers” are proud to say that this attack on unions is a way to give workers “freedom to associate,” as if anyone in America is forced to take a job, as if people in Michigan wouldn’t line up for the chance to take a union job. As if the actual “food stamp party” isn’t the GOP.
The idea of people in the middle class attacking the ability to organize, the one thing that most led to creation of the middle class, is as heartbreaking as it infuriating.
The sad thing is that many of these folks are earnest. They’re not a Fox News guy trying to get airtime or an Americans for Prosperity staffer. They’re agitated Republicans ranting in the faces or Twitter feeds of people who will actually see their wages depressed as a result of this rush to weaken unions in Michigan.
These “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” may not know it, but they’re proud members of one of the most successful political movements in American history—the billionaire rights movement.
It began in 1971 when future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell wrote a memo called “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System.” It basically acknowledged that America had become a completely liberal nation and that a right wing counterweight and infrastructure was needed to empower corporations and those who love “free enterprise.” His arguments led to the creation of right wing think tanks and organizations that fuel the conservative movement and the logic that led to unlimited corporation donations being made legal in the Citizens United case.
Dan Savage points out that the LGBT movement, which has been nearly as effective as the billionaire rights movement, has a superpower: they’re born into straight families. Powell was noting that corporations had a superpower: money.
Money and the aspiration to have money have completely reshaped our politics. Exactly a decade after Powell’s memo, Ronald Reagan was president and taxes on the rich were sliced in half.
The movement’s principles of low-to-no taxes, deregulation and sapping the power of labor unions have led to record corporate profits and record low wages. Social issues have been used to lure fundamentalists into a coalition between business and the religious right that would have made Jesus overturn tables.
The middle class Americans who’ve been lured into this movement aren/t foolish or craven—though, like all of us, they may act this way. Their mind literally calls out for certainty, as Chris Mooney explains in The Republican Brain. They’re told the world is a scary place. People are after their money, their kids, their guns.
But the billionaire rights movement’s gun industry wing has made it so the right to bear arms is the most unquestioned right in America.
The difference between gun rights and workers’ rights is someone is actually trying to take away workers’ rights.
In his press conference announcing he’d signed “Right to Work” legislation, Governor Rick Snyder was offended because someone implied that this bill would give workers the right to freeload off of the hard work of unions. No Michigander was a freeloader.
That’s mostly true. The freeloaders here are billionaires who outsource their outraged to invent problems that don’t exist to create legislation that make it easier to be billionaire.
If you want to know more about the billionaire rights movement, watch this great documentary–Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream