Columns 2015

The Koch brothers own us all

According to some, President Obama has declared war on Alaska. Given the amount of unaccounted for money shipped to Afghanistan and Iraq on pallets in small denominations when we were first at war there, we should maybe not be so quick to judge harshly. Why turn down the chance to become a war zone showered with untraceable money? Think about it. What do Alaskans like more than free cash for which they’ve had to do absolutely nothing?

Even more interesting in the realm of untold amounts of money is the announcement by the Koch brothers that they will dedicate almost one billion dollars to buy… I’m sorry, elect… the next president of the United States. I’d like to formally inform the Koch brothers that I can be had for a ridiculously small amount of that total. Even more importantly, I’d also like to know how the average American thinks their fifty dollar donation to the candidate of their choice will stack up against this billion dollars when the elected official has to make a decision in someone’s best interest.

I feel as though we are inching closer to a time when only white male landed gentry vetted by the Koch brothers will be able to vote. Since we, the common man and woman of every color and affiliation, have clearly lost any influence on the election cycle, no one will care if we object.

We vote based on the information we receive through ads, TV news programs, magazine and newspaper stories and, god help us all, Google searches. But if the majority of those outlets are held by the same ultimate masters, even if you have to go through a series of puppet masters to get to the top, then the only information you’ll have on which to base your vote will be their propaganda. This is, ultimately, how people like the Koch brothers get us to vote against our self-interests. They convince us that their self-interests jibe with that of the common man.

Think about that for a moment. These brothers are worth over forty billion dollars… each! Do you really think they have anything in common with someone who has to worry about paying for the car repair and mortgage in the same month? Do you really think their kids go to schools where students have to share books and computers – assuming the schools even have computers? Do you think they stand in a Safeway looking at the price of a gallon of milk and wondering if, given the price, it’s all that necessary for their kids’ healthy growth and development?

I was listening to some talking heads recently and a comment was made that the Koch brothers can pour all the money they want into a campaign but in the end, it comes down to us in that voting booth making our choices in total privacy. The talking heads felt that this balanced out anything the brothers could throw at us because we will vote in our own best interests. That’s an interesting idea and might have had some credibility in past centuries. But in this century, the average voter is often looking at a slate of candidates that first had to pass muster with their moneyed overlords before running for office. We are, sadly, often presented with candidates who have only made it to the ticket by agreeing to support their masters’ positions. The average person often can’t find a candidate on the ballot to vote for who seems to really understand their issues.

I think this may be why the Bill Walker/Byron Mallot ticket came across as such a breath of fresh air. Whatever the truth may be, they behave as though not beholden to any party or master. Bill Walker actually seems to be trying to act in Alaska’s best interests. In today’s political landscape, he stands out as someone totally different from the people we usually see on our ballot. And the chance that others like him will ever again get elected to office grows slimmer and slimmer with each election cycle in which the Koch brothers and their ilk can overwhelm any person running without their approval.

Remember that very old movie, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”? It was fiction when it was made. After the changes of the past fifty years in politics and political funding, it has now moved into the realm of fantasy.