Dear Dirty America


Koch Sucking the Sap of Political Liberty

November 02
00:09 2012
Chippewa Falls WI

Menards begins stocking up on fire nozzles in November?  The Eau Claire, WI based company apparently pressures employees to take a number of online courses, which in addition to broadening their knowledge of new products and services now extends to lessons on civics; in keeping with regressive labor policies it is important to note that employees are expected to do so on their own time.  But this course, called Civics 101:  The National Self Governing Will In-Home Training, is described in great detail in an article by AlterNet but can be summed up as a strongly stilted presentation of the economic policies of both presidential candidates, rife with misleading graphs and thinly veiled threats to job security and employee benefits should Obama be reëlected.

A growing trend in the private sector, Menards is just one of many businesses to take advantage of loosened restrictions in the wake of 2010’s Citizens United case.  As part of the Supreme Court’s decision, businesses are now allowed to express their political leanings to employees, being deemed to fall under the First Amendment right to free speech.  Whether this extends to velvet gloved extortion – as in the case of timeshare mogul David Siegel’s email to 7,000 within his company promising layoffs and benefits reductions in the event of an Obama victory – is yet to be decided.

Koch Industries (a staple antagonist to our Dear Dirty Americana) has similarly waged a war against the evils of progressivism, sending out some 50,000 informational packets and letters either against Obama or for Romney to the employees of its company Georgia Pacific.  In addition to telling workers how to vote, blogger Mike Elk contends that the boundaries of the company’s recently instituted social media policy are so vague as to make workers fear even to be associated with Democratic contenders, or to post on Facebook items that are critical of the brothers Koch.

Meanwhile, Mike White of Rite-Hite has sent out a similar email to his Milwaukee-based manufacturing employees, a similar rationale presiding.  Jack Dewitt of Michigan-based Request Foods – oddly enough, a business benefiting from $5.5 million dollars in stimulus money – has likewise sent a letter urging employees to vote Republican this year, citing Obama’s failed economic policies and impending tax hikes as reasons to toe the company’s political line.
Murray Energy’s Bob Murray has gone even further, apparently forcing employees to take a day off to appear with Mitt Romney at a rally in Ohio.  What’s more, the company has persistently pressured employees to make donations to various right-wing campaigns and causes, including Romney’s.  Though Murray denies the allegation, the company records who does and does not give and uses that information when making personnel decisions.
It’s just the latest in the concerted effort by what the inner-conspiracist might call the super-elite, those mythical heroes of free-market capitalism, to counter an admittedly anemic resurgence of America’s labor movement.  This latter progressive motion has been a long time in coming, borne from decades of technological advances in production, various trade agreements that weaken certain elements of the American economy, the blatant outsourcing of jobs, and the enacting of worker-unfriendly legislation in multiple states (right-to-work, the scaling back of safety regulations in the face of deteriorating infrastructure, and various blows to collective bargaining rights, to name a few).  The faltered economy is simply another straw on the back of labor, and the rerouting of Americans’ righteous indignation towards populist producerist movements by various constituencies (Koch!  Koch!) via the Tea Party assemblage is nothing short of gross deception, one which necessarily bleeds over into every sphere of life, beyond the economy to the health and well-being, the education, and even the personal lives of the average (and especially below-average) American.
Put into a broader context, it is very much the continued reprobation of the rights of the worker, maintaining the uneven advantage the haves (entrepreneurial types with capital and/or the means of acquiring such things) keep over the won’t-haves.  The use and misuse of occupational leverage and the manipulation of enfranchisement standards to dissuade voter participation – or indeed, any even nominal display of dissent – is not just worrisome, but is an American problem that needs redress.
Governor Mitt Romney, the man vocalizing the requirements of privilege, is the perfect figurehead for this ugly socio-political development.  Wholly out of touch with his base, and thus deeply gaffe-prone, he belies every appeal made for prosperity and growth.  If I voted for Obama, it is not because I believe the Democrats to be above or beyond the influences of this cabal of specie, nor is it because I fully agree with or approve of the administration’s policies and conduct in its first term.  Rather, the most compelling reason to vote blue this season is because – weak and watered down as it may well be, like that second cup of tea you eke out from that last bag left in the box – it is more or less the party for people, for progressive change, and for gods’ sakes the environment.  If nothing else, the recent Sandy disaster should give one pause to consider the stakes.  If nothing-nothing else, the snappy response of government should at least make one consider what a proper role of said government ought to entail.
Dan Rudy is a writer, welfare queen, and the erstwhile toweled-knuckle boxing champion of northern Wisconsin.  He occasionally posts things here and at his site on


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