Connecticut was the only state in the union to move uniformly to the left after the 2010 elections. While other states rushed to elect Tea Party-backed Republicans, we sent liberal Democrats to the House. Richard Blumenthal beat billionaire Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, for Chris Dodd's Senate seat. The governorship, held by Republicans for 20 years, went blue, too.
So it's peculiar that one of the driving forces behind the Tea Party, the arch-conservative Americans for Prosperity (AFP), decided to set up shop here in September (Dick Armey's FreedomWorks is the other driving force). While Connecticut does have a wild-ass libertarian streak, it tends to get behind things that the AFP abhors, like regulation, taxes and labor rights.
For those who don't know, the AFP is a front group that channels millions to the Tea Party. The AFP, in turn, is backed by Charles and David Koch who — with $50 billion between them — are No. 4 on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans. What began as a mad-as-hell populist uprising quickly turned into a billionaire's shell game in the service of hard-line party politics.
That brand of politics? Simple: Anything that gets in the way of business is un-American. What's the logic? Well, in the filigree fantasia of orthodox libertarianism, society doesn't exist, just individuals who choose to engage in market exchange. All the real-world forces – political, social and economic — that influence individuals, that comprise the social construction of individual identities, are of no concern. Because freedom is defined by an individual's right to engage in this exchange freely, any encumbrance is tyrannical. Hence, regulation is a form of tyranny — and unemployment is a choice.
So what was the AFP's first step?
A website “celebrating” the 20th anniversary of Connecticut's collecting income tax. “Happy Taxiversary,” it said, sarcastically: “Since the passage of the income tax, Connecticut has dramatically risen to the third worst personal income tax environment … Until this governor starts tightening the government's belt, Connecticut will sadly stay on this path of no growth.”
It's just the thing a billionaire hedge-fund manager wants to hear. (Never mind that it's not true — more on that in a little bit later.)
There's another way of looking at the AFP's arrival, a more terrifying way.
What if the corporate class and business elite's 30-year ground war to undermine government has been so successful that even an extremist group like the AFP can now find opportunity in a supposedly liberal stronghold like Connecticut?
In the past year, we have seen how closely Dan Malloy's views reflect the GOP's. He raised taxes on the middle class, broke the public unions (instead of raising taxes on Fairfield County's richest residents) and kill a bill poised to be the first to provide universal health care. Instead of spending on infrastructure, education and renewable energy, he has pledged $106 million in corporate subsidies for about 800 jobs, many of which are not new. He's liberal on social issues like transgender rights, but not when it comes to power and money. His notion of job creation would make any Republican gleeful.
Some might say: So what?
The AFP has a right to spread its ideology during a governorship that shares some of that ideology. That's the price you pay for democracy. To which I would say, you're absolutely right — and wrong.
Forget that the AFP is backed by billionaires continuing to mold domestic policy. Forget that the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling removed legal barriers to pursuing that end. And forget about ideology. The real problem with the Tea Party, the House, the GOP presidential candidates, isn't ideology, however flawed or insane it might be. The real problem is lying.
Connecticut does pay more in taxes. We make more money than the national average, so of course pay more in taxes. Forgrounding an effect while destressing a cause is a misrepresentation, a lie that serves the interests of the 1 percent.
In fact, the U.S. Census estimates that residents pay $118.89 per $1,000 of income. That includes Fairfield County's many millionaires. The national average is $116.22.
And it's how the AFP lies that matters. Its preferred strategy is to lie on the state level (what it calls a “grassroots” effort). It tells beleaguered residents that government is the enemy (it's not), that the cause of unemployment is taxes (nope), that deregulating capital will be a boon for everyone (hardly), even to the poor, the disenfranchised and the helpless (none of the above).
Eventually, such lies have been in currency for so long that by the time they rise up to the national level, they have taken on the shape and force of truth. And none of this is because of an ideology. It's because individuals made a rational choice.
As libertarians, they should know this.
The problem with conservatives isn't the ideology -- it's the lying
Americans for Prosperity trades in falsehoods, not principles
AFP's snarky website