At the Nuremberg Trials, a Constitution of the International Military Tribunal was drawn up. Amongst the crimes for which the Tribunal held individuals responsible were Crimes Against Peace, which dealt with, among other things, conspiracies to wage wars of aggression. This might seem a long ways from the government shutdown in the United States, but there is an illustrative parallel, I think.
What makes the conspiracy to wage aggressive war so unconscionable is the idea that particular individuals had literally gathered in secret, in dark places, to manufacture a war that was not about public interest or national defence, but of naked aggression. Such a war is not only an immoral act, but an immoral act executed without relation to democratic processes or even the truth.
Today in the United States, a similar war is being waged. It is not a war involving guns or bombs, but one aimed at degrading the standard of living of our republic’s citizens, and the democratic institutions of that republic to such a degree that the rising plutocracy in the United States can rule openly in its own interests, untroubled by the regulations which seek to place the welfare of the public before the aggrandisement of wealth by the corporate classes.
One tool that American plutocrats have found useful is the government shutdown. Because plutocrats’ ambition is render the state unresponsive to the welfare of the public, and receptive only to the attentions of the plutocrats themselves, it makes sense for their hired gangsters in Congress to do everything they can to convince their constituents that “government” is unresponsive, inefficient, and incapable of working in the public interest. What better way of manufacturing such distrust than by ignoring the results of elections Republicans lost, throwing out the rule book, and sabotaging the government so that, through their own machinations, their lies come to life.
And now we know that at the heart of this effort to sabotage the federal government there is, quite literally, a conspiracy. The New York Times remarked, “To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010—waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known”.
Apparently, in September the parties to the conspiracy decided to act. They mobilised their money, set up a took kit, websites, and staged rallies, funded by corporate interests. Central to the efforts of the range of right-wing groups have been the contributions of the Koch Empire, an enterprise which has used dark money groups and transfers to funnel the sociopathic billionaires’ funds into a range of races (including California ballot initiatives in 2012), most recently the Republican Party’s bid to shut down the government and repeal the healthcare law. The Koch Brothers are clearly afraid of democracy, and so they seek to create secretive and untraceable channels along which to exert their influence. They have had mixed success so far, but hope that in the fight to sabotage the government over the Affordable Care Act they can demonstrate the power of Mammon unchained.
The Times describes a multi-pronged conspiracy, some arms of which are seeking to defund the law, others of which are pumping money into efforts to repeal the law, and some of which are simply mind-bogglingly massive smear campaigns designed to create fissures between citizens and the institutions which seek to serve them. The Times notes that “a review of tax records, campaign finance reports and corporate filings shows that hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised and spent since 2012 by organizations, many of them loosely connected, leading opposition to the measure”, including Freedom Partners, “a tax-exempt ‘business league’ that claims more than 200 members, each of whom pays at least $100,000 in dues. The group’s board is headed by a longtime executive of Koch Industries”.
Some campaigns are demographically targeted. For example, one arm of the plutocrats’ Octopus is Generation Opportunity, which the Times describes as a “youth-oriented outfit behind the ‘Creepy Uncle Sam’ ads”, which “is spending $750,000 on that effort, aimed at dissuading young people—a cohort critical to the success of the health care overhaul—from signing up for insurance under the new law”. Think about that for a moment. So committed is this cabal to its destructive program that it is setting out to cynically discourage students and young workers from signing up for healthcare insurance, literally undermining the welfare of young people—who are amongst the more vulnerable members of society to economic fluctuations—and seeking to persuade them that they would be better off uninsured and unprotected than if they signed up for a plan.
This well-financed campaign, it must be remembered, is not engaged in constructive criticism. Its funders are not interested in altering the pre-Obamacare healthcare landscape, which saw tens of millions of Americans uninsured, and an out-of-control insurance on autopilot powered by mindless greed and exploitation, a landscape wherein employees were exploited by the large corporations which do not believe that they owe anything to the people who labour for them. It is not a movement which cares in the slightest for the health and welfare of the public. Theirs impetus is entirely destructive in character and is primarily concerned with destroying any impediments to the profiteering of the plutocracy which increasingly calls the shots in our country.
It is, in other words, but one campaign in a broader war of aggression being waged against our democracy and the welfare of the public. The insurance industry is, of course, hedging its bets, and funding an enrolment program because, given the market approach that the Affordable Care Act takes, they will still be able to profit handsomely.
Defunding the Affordable Care Act is not about the welfare of Republicans’ voting constituents. It is rather about the welfare of their paying constituents. It is about ensuring that their corporate clients—who have discovered that a large check can be more powerful than hundreds of thousands of votes—are not inconvenienced by an obligation to their labour force, and about ensuring the perpetuation of an unequal market in which the dark forces of the insurance industry and medical complex can continue to exploit consumers without the mediation of a protective bargaining force. Their worst fear is that if they allow the Affordable Care Act—passed by Congress, upheld by the courts, and defended by the President and his party in an election in which he won re-election and Democrats won more votes nationally in both House and Senate elections than the Republicans—will actually work.
Just as Republicans began President Obama’s tenure hoping for him to fail, they launch this assault on the very idea of governance trying to bring out democratic system to a standstill, a impasse which will benefit the wealthiest in our society at the expense of the rest of us.