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Robert Reich
Robert Reich
Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three US administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including his most recent, Aftershock.
The big-lie coup d'etat
The super-rich and privileged have been fabricating truth in order to entrench it in the American psyche.
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2012 14:29
When creating political television ads, Crossroads GPS is able to spend an unlimited amount of money due to it being registered as a tax-exempt nonprofit organisation [AP]

Berkeley, CA - JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, BP, Chevron, WalMart, and billionaires Charles and David Koch are launching a multi-million dollar TV ad by Tuesday blasting President Obama over the national debt.

Actually, I don't know who's behind this 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 organisation 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 spend most of the money on policy "issues", which is a fig leaf for partisan politics.

 People & Power - The Koch Brothers

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 $4bn 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 baldface 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 reality, government spending as a portion of GDP keeps dropping.

As I said, I don't know who's financing this big 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 reliable inside-Washington source Politico, the Koch brothers' network alone will be spending $400m 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 US Chamber of Commerce that will use the money to air anti-Obama ads, while keeping secret the identities of these firms.

Looking at 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 two to one.

How can it be that big corporations and billionaires will be spending unlimited amounts on big 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 whose purpose is to repeal every bit of progressive legislation since the New Deal and entrench the privileged positions of the wealthy and powerful - who haven't been as wealthy or as powerful since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.

Its techique is to inundate the United States with a few big lies, told over and over (the debt is Obama's fault and it's out of control; corporations and the very rich are the "job creators" that need tax cuts; government is the enemy, and its regulations are strangling the private sector; unions are bad; and so on), and tell them so often they're taken as fact.

Then having convinced enough Americans that these lies are true, take over the White House, Congress, and remaining states that haven't yet succumbed to the regressive right (witness Tuesday's recall election in Wisconsin).

I desperately hope I'm wrong, but all the growing evidence suggests 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 labour under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including The Work of NationsLocked in the CabinetSupercapitalism, and his most recent, Aftershock. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on publicradio.com and iTunes. He is also Common Cause's board chairman. 

A version of this article was earlier published at http://robertreich.org/ 

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The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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