Sermon at UUCM 02/16/2020

How Kochs destroy US

Here is the Sermon I gave as a guest at Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead:

Thanks to Reverend Wendy for giving me this opportunity to talk with you today. The timing is important because at 7pm on March 5, Nancy MacLean will be coming to speak at Salem State and we have primaries and elections approaching.  

Nancy is an excellent and informative speaker and the event will be free.  Wendy has enabled me to ask all of you to attend and to be active to save our democracy. Nancy MacLean’s ideas are the inspiration for my talk today. 

News and conversation about politics can sound distant from us and our daily lives. Yet, politics affects our daily lives, both materially and spiritually, in ways that are easy to ignore.  The quality of the water we drink, the air we breathe, trust in each other, our leaders, institutions, and government, the roads we travel, our health care, our concern for and ability to help others, and the quality of public education exist in our lives but can seem like they are simply there, never changing.  

Please consider for a moment how you or someone you love is currently affected positively–or perhaps negatively– by some government agency or policy. 

Personally, I am grateful for Medicare and Social Security which have allowed me, my wife, her mother and millions of other people to retire and get care as we have needed it.  I also appreciate clean air and water, and a usable, if degrading infrastructure. And that would be just the beginning of a long list.

Each of those things and everything we value was won through vigilance and struggle by civic groups, unions, churches, the press, universities, and honest and caring public officials.  

Some of you have heard me speak previously about Nancy MacLean‘s book, Democracy in Chains or you have read Jane Mayer’s book, Dark Money, or read an article, heard a news talk, or seen a movie about the Koch brothers and the corrupting influence of them and some of the other super-wealthy on our world.

The deeper our understanding of what is happening to the government of the United States, including attacks on our social benefits, children in cages, misogyny and racism from the White House, the more we are apt to be dismayed. 

Yet the purpose of my talk is not to dismay you but rather to inspire you and stir you to action. I hope that the effect will be, the deeper the dismay, the deeper the commitment to doing something about it.

First let’s review what has happened. By 1980, the family of Fred Koch was already among the most wealthy and powerful in America. Their wealth came and continues to come from oil extraction, transportation, refinement, and petroleum related chemicals.  Sons Charles and David inherited both Koch Industries and an ultra-conservative view of government, far far to the right of the then Republican Party.

They believe that all government employees are self-serving if not corrupt, that capitalism and democracy are incompatible, that the citizenry has no right to tax them, or tell them how to run their business, that a truly free, unfettered marketplace would make society better. They yearn to return to 19th century America when rich white men made the rules and the government helped them.

They say that the best thing to do about poverty, lack of healthcare, and other problems is to end all government benefits which only make people dependent. 

Rather, they say that corporations, the free market, gives people ways to work their way out or to get private charity.  If people cannot do so, it is not the concern of the businessmen. Further, corporations should be free to pollute, injure workers, crush unions, not pay any taxes and be free of all oversight. 

Today’s Republican Party has been taken over by Koch power. Trump’s Cabinet and Administration if full of Koch operatives who have brought the Koch agenda to the heart of government.

In 1980, David Koch ran for Vice President on the Libertarian Party ticket. The ticket got less than 1% of the vote. The Kochs and other extremists saw that people would reject their ideas if publicly stated, so they decided to operate in secret and lie about their real goals in order  to build shadowy organizations capable of taking over state and federal governments and bending those governments to the Koch vision. 

Here is just part of their platform:  Warning, it’s not just rhetoric!

ABOLISH:  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, EPA, Dept of Transport, Dept of Energy, FDA, Consumer Product Safety, US Postal Svc, 

REPEAL: OSHA, Minimum Wages, Compulsory Education, All Taxation

PRiVITIZE: railroads, public roads, national highway system, inland waterways, water distribution system

After 1980, over the next 40 years they recruited and funded the Koch network, the largest patronage network ever seen in the US, consisting of hundreds of organizations and thousands of trained operatives who:

ENLIST other billionaires to amass $BILLIONS to fund their efforts using tax deductible charitable donations

DEVISE STRATEGY, POLICY, AND TACTICS for each stage of the plan to gain control over state and federal governments to change the rules governing voting, education, health care

Gain control of the GOP by using primary challenges to defeat those unwilling to convert – then use the GOP to pass their and only their legislation, refusing all compromise

Capture the Executive Branch and use it to bankrupt the government to justify slashing Medicare and Social Security, and hollow out the EPA, FDA, Public Health, Research – and capture the courts to get 19th century judges, 19th century laws, and a 19th century constitution

REDUCE THE POWER OF THE  ELECTORATE through gerrymandering, voter suppression, misinformation, cripple unions

SPREAD MISINFORMATION through media sources like Fox News and the Sinclair Broadcasting Network and through social media, even using  mass-data-collection sources to tailor opinion-shaping messages to individual voters. Cultivate White evangelical religious and pro-gun allies like Southern Baptists & the NRA

One author wrote, “Their cause, they say, is liberty. But by that they mean the insulation of private property rights from the reach of government—and the takeover of what was long public (schools, prisons, road, waterways, western lands, and much more) by corporations, a system that would radically reduce the freedom of the many. In a nutshell, they aim to hollow out democratic resistance”, to end democracy itself.

They have almost accomplished their goals – but we are just beginning!

On our website, please see the Koch network & the Counter Koch network!

The Koch network is vast, well funded and well organized.  You have never heard of many of their interconnected groups. A few examples:  

ALEC – American Legislative Exchange Council writes the hyper-conservative bills  that Republicans introduce into the legislatures of the many individual states that the party controls and also into the House and Senate.   

The Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation devise strategy and communicate it to the network.  

The Leadership Institute recruits and trains cadre. 

The State Policy Network (153 member organizations in 49 states, Puerto Rico, & D.C.) works to gain control of state governorships and legislatures. 

Americans for Prosperity works with states to gerrymander districts and secretly cut tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls. 

Council for National Policy (CNP) produces thousands to political volunteers and voters because of Trump’s anti-abortion activity.

It’s natural to list these organizations separately and think of them as distinct, but in fact they are interconnected, run by overlapping boards and directors and funded from the same sources.

Before you despair, I want you to know that there is another list on our website called, “Counter Koch Groups.” For every group invented and funded by the Koch network, there are groups opposing their harmful agendas.  People are fighting back in every domain – Environment, judiciary, voting rights, women’s, minority, LGBQT, disability rights, public education, immigration, health care, media, religion, spirituality. These groups, plus the thousands of people working to elect the hundreds of great political candidates who support democracy and reverse the Koch inspired Trump led assault, deserve our support. 

The message I want to leave you with today has two components: first, we must understand what kind of threat our society faces from the Koch network. Recall those happy thoughts about clean air and Medicare and Social Security and good public education? Those programs are in the crosshairs. 

And second, it’s up to us–to all of us–to do what we can to protect democracy and defend the social justice, environmental, scientific, and spiritual values we cherish.

– All Hands On Deck!  In addition to supporting our candidates of choice, we can help any of these groups whose work directly counters the Koch’s.

Indivisible, Working Families Party, Southern Poverty Law Center, The Brennan Center, Movement Voter Project, Voting While Black, UU the Vote, Transformative Justice Coalition, Greenpeace, Vote Forward,  Represent US, Swing Left, ACLU, Marblehead Town Democratic Committee, UnKoch My Campus, Koch Docs, Stand Up to ALEC, Repairers of the Breach, Faith in Action, Evangelicals Against Trump, Christianity Today magazine, The Center for Popular Democracy, The Democracy Initiative, United We Dream Action, MoveOn, Sunrise Movement,

Who can commit to coming to Salem State on March 5? Who wants to be on our Newsletter email list?  Who will try to do more to save our democracy?

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1 thought on “Sermon at UUCM 02/16/2020

  1. KUDOS, KUDOS, KUDOS FRANK!

    Dear Frank,
    I am having a wonderful time with the Welters. And yes, we are indulging ourselves with the enjoyment of food and Greek hosiptality.
    Nevertheless, we are also sharing our awareness, with my Greek and non Greek friends here, about the situation in the States, which is affecting the whole planet. They are relived to learn that we are aware of this situation. They themselves are aware of being directly affected by the politics of the U.S.A. They are aware and have been aware since the 70’s of the disabling of democracy.

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