This past weekend, 1,000 conservative activists gathered in Minneapolis for the RightOnline conference. The “grassroots” summit was convened by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which was founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, who are among the most prolific funders of the conservative right.
A new video by Robert Greenwald and his Brave New Foundation illustrates the Koch brothers’ echo chamber by looking at one prominent example: Social Security. “What the Koch brothers want to do is destroy Social Security, because Social Security is a federal government program that has been enormously successful,” says Senator Bernie Sanders, who narrates the video.
The video shows how the Koch’s perpetuate the myth that Social Security is in crisis by funding prominent think tanks like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, pundits on Fox News and CNBC, and politicians like Paul Ryan. The $28.6 million that flows to the think tanks leads to over 300 policy papers advocating the dismantlement of Social Security, which in turn provides new fodder for conservative talking heads and politicians. The film debunks three top “Social Security distortions”—that the retirement age must be raised, that the program is going bankrupt, and that Social Security must be privatized. “The Koch brothers job is to do everything they can to dismember government in general,” said Sanders, “and if you can destroy Social Security, you will have gone a long way forward in that effort.”
WASHINGTON — Bipartisan negotiators representing the House, Senate and White House continue to haggle over what spending cuts will be demanded in exchange for agreeing to pay past debts. The group is deadlocked on the two key issues, however, as Republicans insist that no tax increases can be any part of an agreement, while Democrats are ruling out cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
A new video by Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films, “The Koch Echo Chamber,” puts the GOP position that changes to Social Security ought to be a part of a deficit reduction plan in the context of the Koch brothers’ longtime support for conservative and libertarian organizations who argue for such cuts.
Over the years, the Mercatus Center, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and Reason Foundation have collectively been given $28 million by the GOP benefactors, the film notes, tying that giving to a subsequent shift in the public conversation as it relates to Social Security.
Brave New Films has provided, with Bernie Sanders, a clear deconstruction of the origins and process of the conservative disinformation propaganda machine. It’s scary.
If you have been paying attention to television, radio, newspapers, the Internet, various talk shows, including the batch on Sunday morning, you have heard two words repeated a lot; so often that there is actually the sound of an echo. Word one is collapse … collapse … collapse; word two is bankrupt… bankrupt … bankrupt. Can you guess why these words are repeated over and over (and no, this is not about the Greek economy)?
Rather, these words are being used and reused to describe the persistent disinformation that, if successful, will impact millions of people, probably even you, who are reading this. Did you guess right? The first message is: “We must raise the retirement age or the economy will collapse.” And two: “Social security is bankrupt.”
These two statements have been repeated thousands of times in and on American media. Yet there is not one scintilla of evidence that either one of these statements is accurate. But they have lodged themselves into the mainstream of American thought, constantly repeated by corporate media, as if they are obvious truths.
How does this happen? Since the 1970′s the conservatives in this country have developed a very powerful propaganda infrastructure, that is currently heavily funded by guess who? Right, the Koch brothers. It goes like this: large amounts of money a la Koch brothers are given to conservative think tanks where well-paid staffers develop position papers. The think tanks release the position papers pushing conservative ideas, then an army of publicists place the pundits from those very think tanks for media appearances to promote the ideas, repeating the talking points. The corporate media parrots these positions as if they’re fact; conservative politicians (funded by the Kochs and other conservative donors) embrace and promote the same talking points, as if they’re fact. This is the nature of the echo chamber. When it is fully operational, the same points are made in many media appearances, in every kind of media until the ideas become the conventional wisdom.
On Tuesday, for the first time in 19 months, Pedro Guzman left Stewart Detention Center, a privately run facility where he was housed while fighting deportation. The Lumpkin, Ga., detention center is one of many run by Corrections Corporation of America, a prison giant that believes its next major market is immigrant detentions.
Georgia may be its next frontier. The state’s anti-illegal immigration bill, styled after Arizona’s SB 1070, was signed into law last week. The result could be more immigrants in detention — and more profits for CCA, which has been accused of mistreating detainees and cutting down on amenities to improve profits.
CCA, as reported by NPR last year, was in the room when SB 1070 author Russell Pearce, now Arizona state Senate president, unveiled his plans for the bill at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Guzman said he saw firsthand how CCA makes its money by spending as little as possible on the men and women in detention centers.
“There’s so much money they make from us, but they’re not investing any money in detainees,” he said in an interview. “The treatment you get is like you’re an animal. I have two dogs, and I treat my dogs much better than the detainees are treated in there.”
Guzman, who turns 31 on Thursday, moved to the United States from Guatemala with his mother when he was 8 years old. He is married to an American, Emily Guzman, and is the father of a 4-year-old citizen named Logan.
For about a year an a half, the Guzman family was separated by the immigrant detention system. The difficulties of communication from the CCA-run facility made the separation worse.
Guzman was granted a green card on Monday, and will be allowed to stay in the United States under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, which allows some immigrants from Guatemala to stop deportation proceedings. But he said he is “still healing” from the 19-month detention, during which he said detainees were yelled at, crammed into close quarters and given little communication with the outside world.
He was not convicted of a crime, but Guzman said he was treated like a prisoner, despite an effort launched by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in October 2009 to make detention centers less punitive.
Detainees in the Stewart Detention Center stay in “pods,” where 62 men sleep in bunk beds about two feet apart, Guzman said. In the center of the room are about six tables, where the men can eat food they buy from the commissary.
Today, our friends at Brave New Foundation launched the ‘Immigrants for Sale’ campaign with a powerful animated video exposing the way private prisons profit off the passage of anti-immigrant legislation, and what that means for the democratic process.
The video is the first in an on-going series documenting the abuse, corruption and corporate influence that drives both the rush to privatize incarceration and the draconian sentencing and immigration laws that make the rush profitable.
The three largest corporate players in the industry — CCA (the Corrections Corporation of America), The Geo Group and Management and Training corporations — reap annual profits of more than $5 billion a year at the same time as they dole out more than $20 million annually in lobbying to (mostly rightwing) state legislators to ensure the approval of the regional anti-immigrant laws that fill their coffers.
An NPR report outlined how CCA and co. aim to translate the anti-immigrant rhetoric and political void into a long-lasting cash drive — believing that illegal immigrants will continue to provide a fresh and highly profitable influx of new inmates to their cells if harsh anti-immigration legislation Arizona-style stays popular.