Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stop the Koch Brothers Greed Agenda Tour Reaches Kansas: Teacherken Reports

Patriot Majority USA has run two bus tours, one on the West Coast, and one in the eastern  half of the country. focused on the Koch Brothers and their Greed Agenda, which they push with hundreds of millions of dollars and through organizations they have established and funded such as Americans for Prosperity, American Legislative Exchange Council, and Freedomworks.
Ken Bernstein,  a recently retired National Board Certified Social known for his blogging as teacherken at Daily Kos reported on the trip. Here is his report from Kansas re-posted with permission from the Education Votes website

When I say “we” it is because on Friday both buses, the one I was on in the East and the one that had been traveling the West, caught up with one another in Topeka, the state capitol, and then finished the tour at a union hall in Kansas City. Oh yes, and Bill Burke and some others first went to Wichita, to the headquarters of Koch Industries, founded by Fred C. Koch, father of the Koch Brothers Charles and David, who are the perpetrators of the Greed Agenda.

In Topeka, we set up outside the Kansas State Capitol
to hold a press conference and deliver a letter to Gov. Sam Brownback asking him to break his ties with the Koch Brothers and end his support of the Greed Agenda.

We had lots of press. There were interviews both before and after the formal event. For example, Sid Voorakkara from the West bus got interviewed by Kansas One News
and Mariah Hatta of the East Bus (on which I traveled) by CBS affiliate WIBW-TV, Channel 13:
We had coverage from all four networks, from the AP, and from several print and radio organizations.
Mariah began the press conference by covering the content of the Greed Agenda:
She was followed by Jim McCullough, Director of The Topeka Center for Peace and Justice:
who spoke on voter suppression. He said it was nice to have someone talking about the 99% and pointed out that the Koch Brothers are Kansans. He told us
Your taxes are helping out their profit margins.
Joy Ginsburg, a concenred parent (of the charming young lady next to her):
told us of her concerns about what the Greed Agenda was doing to her public schools. She referred to this editorial from The Wichita Eagle and the Kansas City Star, which criticized Governor Brownback appointing an “efficiency task force” to wring more saving out public schools whose 10 “experts” included no one based in schools or serving as educators. As the editorial, to which I will return later, noted:
Intended or not, the exclusion of practicing educators comes across as a show of disrespect for the people in the trenches who understand what resources are necessary to educate the children of Kansas.
Sid closed the pressed conference

by announcing and reading the letter to Gov. Brownback, which is signed by Patriot Majority but also backed by more than 84,000 people who “LIKE” (and if you follow the link you will see the numbers keep going up – feel free to “LIKE” it as well) the Patriot Majority’s Facebook Page before he and others then headed off to the Capitol:

to deliver the letter to the Governor’s office.
After a brief stop for some barbecue – how can you visit Kansas City and not eat local barbecue? – both buses traveled to a union hall in Kansas City: 
You will note this local hall servers both Laborers (who do construction) and Public Employees.
Sid kicked off the proceedings, and introduced Mark Nidiffer (in the ball cap on your left): IMG_1096 who is the business manager and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 1290, who welcomed us and thanked us for what we were doing. He was followed by Andrea Veronica Hodges of Patriot Majority: IMG_1097 who told us the Koch Brothers are attempting to rob us of our rights. She mentioned that ALEC has supported 38 pieces of legislation that effectively rob us of our civil rights. We need to send a message to the Koch Brothers that we will not let them get away with it.
After Joy Ginsburg spoke again, the final speaker was Don Jones of Patriot Majority: IMG_1099
who talked about growing up in a union hall like this. Both of his parents, his uncles, now even his 21 year old son, were/are union members.
I was raised and taught that you get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
But the Koch Brothers and others pushing the Greed Agenda want to take these jobs overseas. Don said that what we want is jobs to provided “everyday stuff” like our houses, being able to send our kids to school, to be able to pay for our cars.
This is OUR country… Labor hands built this country.
Kansas is an appropriate place to end this Stop the Greed Agenda Bus Tour for a number of reasons. First, let me return to the editorial from which I quote:
Once again, Brownback has shown he will heavy-handedly wield the state’s authority over local communities even as he decries the idea that the federal government should have a say in what goes on in the states.
A key approach of the Greed Agenda is to take power away from the Federal government, including the power to regulate corporations as much as possible, and to return it to state government, where through organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council, with its cooperation between state legislators and corporations shaping laws government can be perverted to benefit corporations and the rich. If the Federal Government is hamstrung and limited in what can be done, and state governments are controlled by ALEC and other similar organizations, then the ability of local governments to protect their people begins to disappear, as does the meaning of democracy as a form of government that is rule by “We the people.”

Kansas is also ground zero for something else. One needs to remember that Governor Brownback is on record as not fully supporting evolution – as seen by his raising his hand at a Republican primary debate and by this op ed in the New York Times – even though the Roman Catholic Church to which he converted as an adult has no difficulty with Darwin’s theory. Kansas is also the state whose elected state school board sought to downplay evolution and require the teaching of  ”intelligent design.” While that school board was eventually voted out by the people of Kansas, this points at something to which we often do not pay attention. Those pushing the Greed Agenda realistically care little about such social issues – what they want is unfettered ability to run their corporations, break the unions, and maximize their profits. They have seen that they can use the concerns of some fearful of change to rile them up about social issues and vote for legislators and others who will be compliant on the economic issues that concern the likes of the Koch Brothers, and these same legislators, having been courted and financially supported by organizations like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks will then join ALEC and support the Greed Agenda which is the real concern of the Koch Brothers.

Remember, many people who are anti-evolution also tend not to believe in anthropogenic Global climate change. Wanting people not to accept climate changes is important to those whose profits depend upon continued reliance on fossil fuels, which is an apt description of Charles and David Koch.

We cannot merely push back when legislation is passed or state constitutional amendments are placed on the ballot. We must recognize what is going on, and fight strongly on every election through which the Greed Agenda is being advanced, or we will lose our democracy.

We must be informed and inform others.

This is my last post from the road, describing particular events.

I will offer one more post, without additional pictures, focusing on the issues of concern to those of us who work in and for public schools and/or who support public education.

It has been an honor to travel on behalf of Education Votes, and to share my observations and thoughts here.

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