Fat Cats and Democrats

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


mooreThe progressive mind functions by means of mythic narratives that have tenuous connections to reality. Cops shoot a black man, and Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post begs “please don’t shoot me,” indulging the myth of a lethal American racism endangering black people’s lives, even though black offenders kill 90% of black murder victims, and 85% of interracial crime is perpetuated by blacks against whites. Criticize Sandra Fluke for demanding that a Catholic university’s health care plan subsidize her birth control, and you’re waging a sexist “war on women” for making them pay a whole $30 for their monthly pills. Another particularly persistent and long-lived political folk tale is that conservatives and Republicans are the party of robber barons who use their exorbitant wealth to undermine democracy for their own nefarious ends.

Just recently this hoary myth was used to explain why Volkswagen autoworkers in Tennessee voted against joining the United Automobile Workers Union. According to MSNBC, the union lost because Grover Norquist’s “nonprofit Americans For Tax Reform . . . turned out to be funding a union-busting arm called the Center for Worker Freedom that waged a public campaign against the UAW in Chattanooga.” This is a variation on the same liberal caterwauling over the malign influence of money on politics allegedly enabled by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that held restrictions on political speech by corporations, associations, and unions to be in violation of the First Amendment. In October last year, Obama blamed Citizen United for empowering rich conservative extremists like the Koch brothers: “You have some ideological extremists who have a big bankroll, and they can entirely skew our politics.” Look at the facts, however, and it is the progressives and Democrat elites who are using their fat bankrolls to make the political system serve their ideological and material interests.

Consider the Center for Responsive Politics’ recently released list of “Heavy Hitters,” the biggest donors among political organizations from 1989 to 2014. Number 1 is ActBlue, “the online clearinghouse for Democratic action,” as it styles itself, that bundles individual contributions for distribution to Democratic candidates. ActBlue has already raised $12 million for the 2014 election cycle. In 2012 it tallied $33 million. All but 4 of the top 16 “heavy hitters” give the overwhelming majority of their funds to the Democrats. Only 2 of the top 20 give to Republicans. As FrontPage’s Arnold Ahlert points out, the progressives’ favorite big-money bogeymen, the Koch brothers, didn’t even make the top 50. These data are consistent with the research of David Horowitz and Jacob Laskin in their book The New Leviathan, which counts 122 left-wing foundations worth $104 billion, compared to 86 conservative ones worth around $10 billion.

This blatant hypocrisy and disregard for fact, of course, is nothing new, and reflects a long history of wealthy elites promoting progressive causes and policies from their privileged enclaves. In 2005 Hoover fellow Peter Schweitzer profiled some of these Potemkin populists whose lives have nothing to do with their principles, and who never have to live with the consequences of their policies. MIT professor Noam Chomsky, for example, one of the most prominent left-wing critics of America, has called capitalism a “grotesque catastrophe,” one “crafted to induce hopelessness, resignation, and despair.” Yet Chomsky, Schweitzer writes, is “himself a shrewd capitalist, worth millions, with money in the dreaded and evil stock market, and at least one tax haven to cut down on those pesky inheritance taxes that he says are so important.” Chomsky has set up an irrevocable trust to shelter his money, with his tax attorney and his daughter as trustees. Fans of redistributing wealth via the income tax like Chomsky are careful to make sure that somebody else pays for their political idealism.

Or take progressive filmmaker Michael Moore, who boasted about not owning stock but then set up a private foundation that in 2005 owned nearly $400,000 in corporate stocks and bonds, including pharmaceutical and medical companies like Pfizer, Merck, and Eli Lilly, the targets of his documentary Sicko, which attacked the American health-care system. Moore’s foundation, however, doesn’t lavish funds on activist causes: “For a man who by 2002 had a net worth in eight figures,” Schweitzer writes, “he gave away a modest $36,000 through the foundation, much of it to his friends in the film business or tony cultural organizations that later provided him with venues to promote his books and films.” John Kerry, George Soros, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Ralph Nader––as Schweitzer documents, all these scolds of capitalist greed and champions of the oppressed have done very well manipulating the system to increase their own power and privilege, and ensuring that their money doesn’t end up in the government’s hands to finance the social justice policies they loudly champion.

Examples of this conflict between progressives’ ideals and their lives are as common as flies. People with King-Kong-sized carbon footprints left by private jet travel and 30,000-square-foot homes decry climate change and propose policies that will raise fuel and electricity prices for the masses. Champions of public schools and the policies that enable their failure put their own kids into exclusive private schools even as they attack charter schools that benefit minorities. Congressmen like Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer, who cast themselves as the defenders of the little guy against rapacious and heartless corporations, endorse environmental policies that dump precious water into the Pacific in order to protect baitfish, throwing out of work Mexican farmworkers. Preachers of multicultural diversity and the boons of integration live in gated enclaves and high-end zip codes far from the dark “other.” Gun-control fanatics eager to gut the Second Amendment protect themselves with armed private security. And the scolds of bigotry and racism routinely indulge the most vicious slander and calumny against conservatives, Christians, pro-life women, and anybody else who doesn’t agree with their doctrines.

The demonization of wealth spent on conservative political causes, even as many more millions are spent on progressive ones, is just another example of liberalism’s moral incoherence. It reflects as well a two-bit postmodern carelessness about the distinction between words and deeds. For the affluent progressive, chanting the right mantras about fairness, equality, and justice creates a reality that masks how their beliefs and policies create unfairness, inequality, and injustice, and obscures how far their lives are from the clients they patronize and exploit politically. But as Eric Hoffer said, “Facts are counterrevolutionary.” The costs of the Democrats’ attempts to realize Obama’s pledge to “fundamentally transform America” are creating a mountain of unpleasant facts that just might awaken enough voters to the hypocritical and duplicitous myths that comprise progressive politics.

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  • Steeloak

    Amazing, isn’t it? Why anyone would give these hypocritical blowhards the time of day is beyond me. These snake oil peddlers used to be tarred & feathered and run out of town on a rail!

    • aldisiij367

      my Aunty Grace got a nearly new blue Kia by
      working part time from the internet. look at this now F­i­s­c­a­l­P­o­s­t­.­ℂ­o­m

      • DaCoachK

        Do you really think anyone buys your B-S? End your late night spamming and get a real job, you crook.

        • nomoretraitors

          Vote these comments down. If enough people do that, disqus may remove them from the site

    • Bamaguje

      Indeed leftists are hypocrites whose loudmouthed huffing & puffing is at odds with their deeds.
      Their motto seems to be – “do as I say, not as I do.”

    • swemson

      VERY good question…

      Forgetting the “low information” voters for the moment, why do so many obviously intelligent and educated people buy into the far left’s lies? The real leaders of the left, the Clintons, Obama, Kerry, Schumer, Cuomo, etc… know that they’re lying through their teeth in their pursuit of raw power. They’re merely using the leaders of the media & celebrities like Oprah & Sean Penn, Lenin’s “useful idiots”, to help achieve their goals. If we knew why those folks believe all the lies, maybe we could find a way to reach them…

      I think the primary cause of their confusion stems from the fact that they don’t understand the true nature of wealth…

      They think that in order for one man to be very wealthy, he MUST have stolen from, or somehow cheated or exploited lots of poor men. They don’t understand that wealth doesn’t exist in a static quantity, leaving society merely to fight over how IT should most fairly be split up… What they can’t understand, probably because most of them never participated in the process, is the fact that wealth is the natural byproduct of hard work and innovative & creative ideas… They don’t understand that wealth is constantly being created, and that virtually all of the great fortunes were created by that small percentage of men who are smarter, harder working, and far more ambitious than the others.

      To me, the ONLY person who knew how to explain the truth about the free enterprise system in a clear and concise way was Ayn Rand, which is probably why the vast majority of the people on the left who have even heard of her, all hate her so vehemently. The vast majority of these people have never read her of course… but that doesn’t seem to matter to them, so certain they are that she was a fascist.

      I suggest that it’s time for all of us who were introduced to her in the 50′s & 60′s to revisit her writings, especially those works by Ms Rand and her followers that delve into her principles in more detail than her novels are capable of doing. I highly recommend the following:

      1: The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand (1964)

      2: Philosophy : Who Needs It? by Ayn Rand (1984)

      3: Capitalism : The Unknown Ideal by Nathaniel Branden, Robert Hessen, Alan Greenspan and Ayn Rand (1986)

      4: Free Market Revolution : How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government by Don Watkins and Yaron Brook (2012)

      fs

    • kilfincelt

      It’s all about wanting more power!

      • kasandra

        Right you are. As the noted economist Bruce Springsteen wrote: “Poor man wanna be rich; Rich man wanna be king; and a king ain’t satisfied till he rules everything.”

        • truebearing

          Irony Alert!

          Old Bruce was just projecting a little. You can always count on the Left for at least to things: chromic lying and projection.

        • Notalibfool

          Bruce Springsteen should stop wasting away his time and money helping LIEberals win elections.

          Or maybe he should just stop pretending to be the working man’s hero and admit that he’s another rich leftist hypocrite.

    • A Z

      I prefer not to refer top Al Gore’s carbon footprint.

      It is too big for that.

      Al Gore has huge carbon @zz print. It is in proportion to his rather large derrier.

      • swemson

        Actually, we shouldn’t be using the term “carbon footprint” at all, in ANY context, because it’s a bull$hit term made up by the far left liberal progressives to describe something that they made up that doesn’t even exist.

        CO2 isn’t carbon! Calling CO2 “carbon” is like calling H2O “hydrogen”. There’s no such thing as a “carbon footprint”, & people don’t leave “carbon footprints” unless they’re coal miners, walking on a white rug with their work boots. When we use these made up words we give them legitimacy that they don’t have or deserve.

        I hate Al Gore because he’s a lying POS, not because he uses lots of fuel. With our current technology, we’re perfectly capable of burning hydrocarbon based fuels without doing any damage to our environment, which happens to be doing just fine BTW. And we might as well do so since, contrary to one of the many BIG lies our government has been telling us, we have more than enough of it to last us for a couple of hundred years or more.

        How evil is our current government?

        They won’t let our oil companies drill for oil in our coastal oil fields, because of the alleged environmental risks, but they give billions of dollars in loans to Petrobas, a Brazilian oil company owned in part by George Soros, so that they can drill for oil on OUR continental shelf, and sell it to our enemies (communist China).

        Since they won’t allow our own oil companies to satisfy our energy needs with OUR OWN OIL, we’re forced to buy a huge percentage of the oil we use from the arab oil states, who use our money to support international Islamic terrorism, and from other communist oil producing states such as Venezuela. Talk about giving aid and comfort to our enemies… jeeez… They should all be stood up in front of a firing squad….

        We’re running out of time folks… if we don’t put an end to these $cumbags soon, the America which we know and love will be gone forever..

        Atlas is getting ready to shrug!

        fs

    • nomoretraitors

      Because there are so many stupid and gullible people who are unable to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own lives

  • herb benty

    These “elite” leftists, being rich, next turn to the last sin of addiction- POWER.

    • davarino

      And there it is, they have run out of things to do, because they are so rich, and want to rule the world. All the while, being everything except what they preach.
      Wake up people, they dont really care about you, they want to rule you.

  • SCREW SOCIALISM

    That obese regressive progressive michael moore eats more than 5 normal people.

    How many poor have starved to death to feed michael moore.

  • truebearing

    Thoroughly and well stated.

    The Left is run by wealthy elites with utter contempt for the truth, and even more for the people they claim to be helping. They yammer about civil rights and empowerment but have created a caste system that dwarfs anything in history. This country, and the world in general, is run by a massive crime syndicate that makes the old Sicilian mafia look quaint.

  • Naresh Krishnamoorti

    I am sick of reading articles like these, because it means that the writer takes at face value the lunatic fantasy that Leftists occupy some sort of moral high ground. The fact is that Leftists are, and have always been (from before Robespierre), sociopathologically evil, morally depraved, liars and manipulators bent on killing, destroying, and enslaving the vast majority of the human population.
    I should rather read an article expressing shock and surprise that there is a Leftist out there who sincerely believes and practices what he preaches.

  • bob smith

    Daniel, kudos as usual with your laser like focus on the hidden bs of the progressive mantra of “do as i say, and don’t even try to do as i do”.

    where you could have injected one more critique would have been to touch upon the cosiness of the hundreds of billions of dollars over generations that unions have usurped from their members irrespective of their members consent, knowledge or otherwise to ‘donate’ to the progressive/democrat causes…fight businesses at every turn and at all levels of government to be sure that unions are empowered and wealthy.

    just look at the decimation of labor force and the extant of jobs lost in The Republic over the last 50 years…whatever sector of the economy, jobs are being lost even as we speak because we have government that battles business of all stripes in one way, shape or form.

    ergo, corporations move money and work elsewhere.

    if this were a graph of jobs over time, it would be seen as moving continually from the upper left to the lower right.

    when the progressives are all out of work and we begin the spin as is the case with Venezuela, the economic reset will be a catastrophe…and it is just waiting to happen.

  • popseal

    They all are self absorbed hypocrites, sanctimonious and superior minded fools who make a fortune in America and then criticize America as though their extravagant life styles go unnoticed. If Gore the bore, Danny Glover, and KING PINOCCHIO were to have round table discussion led by Larry King, the entire world would go to sleep listening to them tell each other how wonderful they are. In fact, we of ‘the great unwashed’ might be banned from hearing their sermonizing since none of us are as good as any of them. PARASITES is what they really are.

  • catherineinpvb

    The ‘me in the mirror’ people. Think it part of the Liberal Narcissistic Syndrome these people live with – and by.

  • http://www.clarespark.com/ Clare Spark

    Progressives are simply protecting their class position by buying off the slobs. If you read their writings they confess it easily enough. See http://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. “Populism, progressivism, and corporatist liberalism in The Nation, 1919.” That magazine moved sharply to the left to co-opt the followers of Eugene Debs and the IWW. No mystery here. They still do it.

  • Spinoneone

    How dare you! Don’t you know it is the “right” of these “elites” to do as they wish? Who do you think you are to be criticizing them? /snarc/

    Power/prestige/perks – the three prime goals of any politician/priest/prostitute. And, on reflection, there is very little to differentiate among the three occupations. So why are we, or any one else for that matter, surprised to find that the wealthy flock to those they believe can protect them and enhance their life style? They call it “contributions” but we all know it is a payment to Caesar.

  • CowboyUp

    Leftists are bad about discrediting themselves with their “do as I say, not as I do,” and “we’re the very one’s we decry,” hypocrisy, but conservatives have to hammer them on it because the msm won’t.

  • Olorin

    Conservatives and Republicans would make a lot more headway if they spent more time among the people whom progressives USED to represent, and less time responding to progressive propaganda originating from billionaires with rants and ad hominem invective.

    Of course both parties and wings serve the same masters, and don’t care about individuals. Both are collectivist and anti-individualistic, but use different rhetoric, straw men, and whipping boys to make their points.

    Meanwhile, hard working individuals–already overwhelmed by merely trying to survive–are told that they have to pick a side. In the increasingly limited time they/we have to do anything other than work four part-time jobs.

    Then people complain because higher-IQ people aren’t breeding–precisely because they CAN see the writing on the wall, and aren’t going to breed kids they can’t feed.

    Till conservatives start being more civil and less driven by rhetoric, things won’t change. And I’m sure that those in charge of the conservative power structure are perfectly happy with that, just as those in charge of the progressive power structure are totally copacetic.

  • A Z

    This a very good essay that summarizes much of what is wrong with liberals.

    It doesn’t have the detailed facts. There have been many of analyses detailing those.

  • Nixonfan

    Cultural marxism has always been the province of the urban elites. The white working class (non-college) skews very right, while high-income whites are more balanced. This is the famous “trouble with Kansas” that Tom Frank is always whining about.

  • PAthena

    The people you describe are not “liberal” – lovers of liberty. The word “liberal” has been turned into a euphemism for “socialist.” These people are socialist (or communist) for thee and not for me, like Fidel Castro and Josef Stalin.

    • CapitalistPig

      If you were to describe an 1800s liberal the group(s) most likely to be associated with the term would be libertarians &, ironically, the Tea Party.

      • EagleJim

        I disagree.
        The Tea Party believes in self-reliance, the concept of the individual, small gov’t, small taxes, and free-market capitalism. They also believe that both parties have gone beyond the Constitutional constraints on gov’t power, and both parties are leading the country to financial ruin. Contrary to these beliefs, classical liberals believe in big gov’t, and big taxes, and big gov’t intrusion into the lives of people and the economy (although not gov’t control to the degree that Marxists do).

        Libertarians (whom I don’t know enough about…..yet) have a very conservative and fundamental approach to the economy. Keep gov’t out of the economy. I’m really positively impressed with their approach to the economy, as exemplified by their support for the Austrian School of Economics (http://mises.org/) as the basis of Libertarian economic thought.

        On social issues, and maybe this is where Libertarians are similar, in some ways, to classical liberals, they believe in individual freedoms, namely that the gov’t should stay out of the culture wars, that as long as nobody is being harmed by another’s actions that gov’t should not use its coercive power that only results in dividing society. Classical liberals would differ in that they would want to use gov’t power to settle cultural issues in favor of the liberal perspective.

        It looks to me, at this time, that the Libertarian party is “the” party of freedom. They speak often about individual liberty, and I can’t remember when the Reps have last promoted individual freedom….especially now that the Dems have become the only viable Marxist party in America and are seeking to replace individual freedom with government control and collectivism.

        • CapitalistPig

          Not sure if you read the first line in my post…. “an 1800s liberal” ….or “as liberalism was understood in the 1800s” if you prefer.
          Yes, Tea Party & Libertarians, of which I consider myself to be one. Couldn’t agree with you more. But if you were to put those platforms side by side in the 1800s–you would most closely be associated with what was called “liberalism” in those days.
          An odd parallel with how perceptions can be skewed is in the old Soviet Union where “Conservatives” were in charge & protective of the status quo, expansive government & were resistant to change & reform…….while what were called “liberals” were the group clamoring for a reduction in the size & scope of the state & the introduction of market reforms.
          I never could figure that one out back in the 1970s & 1980s when those terms were used in reporting on the USSR–erroneously.

          That was my only point.

    • EagleJim

      Yes, the old “classical liberalism” is now assigned to the dust-bin of history. “Modern liberalism” in America is, indeed, Marxism (progressivism, socialism, communism). Classical liberalism shared certain traits with Conservatism: believing in the superiority of the individual over the collective, believing in individual freedom, believing in free-market capitalism. Modern liberalism believes in the superiority of the collective over the individual; believing in replacing individual freedom with government control, believing in Marxist government control over ,and planning of, the economy.

  • The Facts

    Rhetorically, this article succeeds where Daniel Greenfield’s article about Saudi Arabia being “the real” apartheid state fails. Namely, this article does rhetorically construct the uneven contrast between progressive fundraisers and conservative fundraisers. Where the article fails, though is in two places. One, the author attempts at the beginning to do brain salad psychology, which is out of his field. Two, Mr. Thornton falsifies the true comparative size of the money both conservatives and progressives invest to bribe, skew, and circumvent the political functioning of our country. Part of this falsification is the misdirection by half-truth that progressives subvert various foundations. The other unstated rest of truth is that conservatives allow corporations to write laws outright or provide staff directly to the government, or manipulate core commodities. Really, both conservatives and progressives are meddlesome oligarchs in the same regard. This leads to the third failing of the rhetoric of Mr. Thornton’s article, which is that he contends that people take limousine liberals like Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky seriously. Really, only a handful of balding Quaker hippies do that. Moore and Chomsky at best capitalize upon suffering. The general public recognizes them as as much a part of the Establishment as the Koch Brothers are.

    • EagleJim

      Reps and Dems have both allowed companies to help write laws pertaining to their industries. This has been going on since the early days. There’s a simple reason for it, and I believe a positively functioning reason for it, namely that Congressionals and their staffs are ill-equipped to know the industries, their sub-sectors, and the markets they deal in.

      The main cause, at hand, is not to cripple companies, industries, etc., since they contribute to employment of US families, to economic development, and toward raising the standard of living for all Americans. So, companies help write new legislation and regulations because they know their areas of functioning and Congressionals don’t.

      So, the contribution of companies, overseen by Congressionals, is a very positive relationship when it comes to drafting new legislation or regulations that effect companies and, hence, the economy, the standard of living, employment, etc
      .
      To leave companies out of it would result in central planning and that arrangement never works to the benefit of anyone except the political class.

      Your assertion that nobody pays attention to Chomsky, Moore, etc., is nothing more that a reflection of your personal judgment and, perhaps, your own ignorance of the influence such people have on the voters. I know the opposite of what you know, namely, I know Moore, Chomsky, et al, do indeed have an influence. Hey, witness Moore being sat next to Jimmy Carter during a Dem national convention. (and don’t try to discount the importance of it by saying Carter is a jerk and that nobody listens to him besides aging Quaker hippies, or some such other demeaning statement that only reflects the limitations of your own intellect and of your own knowledge.)

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      What happened? You didn’t follow through and explain why Saudi Arabia with its treatment of women, exclusionary immigration policy, hate filled wahabbist education, treatment of gays, current day slavery is NOT “the real” apartheid state.

      Your post gets a grade of “F” for FAIL.

      • The Facts

        I don’t live in Saudi Arabia. I live in America, a place where Arabs and Jews are free to live and enjoy the benefits of a democratic republic. We abolished our own apartheid in the 1960s. The article above is not about Saudi Arabia. The article above is a flawed analysis of money in US politics.

  • 12banjo

    Here’s another one–Jon Stewart makes $30M a year. He gets half the ratings that O’Reilly gets. O’Reilly makes half of what Stewart makes. Who is really paying Jon Stewart?

    • Schmitty

      That is a great question. I never thought of that before.

  • American1969

    Fantastic article! An excellent explanation of Regressives and their ilk. Only a brain-dead idiot can’t see the blatant hypocrisy!
    Time to start fighting back by reminding them that if they really, truly believed what they preached, they would put their money where their mouths are and live up to their own rhetoric. Watch how apoplectic Regressives get when you use that against them. They can’t stand it.
    Regressives are hypocrites of the highest order and mentally deranged.

  • Marlin B. Newburn

    There are very leftist folk I know personally who, to this day, would not find anything wrong in the hypocrisy of their prophets in the media and politics. Therein demonstrates the gross pathology of a leftist; the ability to ignore value-conflicts while denying glaring realities, and those, without conscience or concern.

    • Guest

      The pathology of the Left is narcissism. Leftists make up an arrogant and condescending narcissistic confederacy.

  • nomoretraitors

    Liberals are hypocrites. Tell us something we don’t already know

  • herb benty

    Obama’s extreme environmentalist ideology showed itself in Europe, when talking about modern society, and how, “the whole world can’t live like that”. The “elites” have their riches( note: it’s Leftist that want everyone poor , not companies and businesspeople),

  • LizardLizard

    So, uh, yeah. Inequality in America has increased over the last 5 years. But Obama is always talking about how BAD inequality is, and how we have to DO something about it, so that means someone ELSE is responsible, right? Hmmm. By the fruits shall you know the tree. Forget the gum flapping.

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