Posted by: David Offutt | January 17, 2011

Plutocrats of the New Gilded Age: The Wizards of Was

 In their January 2010 Citizens United ruling, the five Republicans on the Roberts Supreme Court effectively turned all our future elections over to powerful corporations by allowing them to spend unlimited, anonymous dollars on their candidates. Then, the majority of those who voted in the 2010 elections gave the Fox “News”-Republican-TEA Party control of the U. S. House of Representatives and gave them more seats in the Senate to make that body even more dysfunctional.

If the new, extremely right-wing House delays necessary spending projects, like infrastructure, they should succeed in deepening the “Jobs Depression.” This should cause the Democrats to lose the Senate and the White House in 2012. If they do succeed, the four Wizards of Was will be the most powerful persons in the U. S.: Rupert Murdoch, Grover Norquist, and the Koch brothers (David and Charles). I call them the Wizards of Was because they work behind the curtain to turn back the clock to the way it was in those gilded days before the 20th century.

The goal of these four radical-reactionaries is to reestablish the Gilded Age policies of the 1880’s and 1890’s. Their ideal is unregulated capitalism. This used to be known as laissez-faire capitalism. That is, the government should keep its “hands off” the economy. It’s their belief that the government should never help the general public for any reason, even in hard economic times.

However, the government’s “hands off” approach always assisted Big Business. There were no regulations of business to protect consumers, workers, the environment, or natural resources; there were no regulations of monopolies that affected prices and competition; and most importantly, there was no income tax – this was possible in the 19th century because the high tariffs placed on foreign goods to protect American industry financed national spending needs.

by Michael Dal Cerro

Integrated into laissez-faire capitalism is the concept that became known as trickle-down economics. If government policies are designed to benefit only the wealthy, then all others will benefit from the generosity of the rich. Theoretically, the very wealthy will trickle down some of their money to the lower income classes through jobs or investments.

It’s never worked to everyone’s benefit in spite of claims to the contrary. The Gilded Age caused the rise of anarchism, socialism, communism, populism, and finally progressivism in efforts to correct its abuses. Herbert Hoover’s Roaring Twenties gave us the Great Depression. Ronald Reagan’s voodoo economics gave us the deepest recession, the worst stock market crash, and the biggest bank failure since Hoover. George W. Bush outdid Reagan with his own early, deep recession and later with his near-global meltdown and Great Recession. The Bush-Cheney Era was the most faithful to Gilded Age policies in a hundred years!

Rupert Murdoch: the Australian-born CEO of News Corporation

Rupert Murdoch is probably the best known of the Wizards of Was. If you don’t know him, you at least know what he owns: Fox “News.” Originally, Fox was only a propaganda tool for the Republican Party. It was intended to promote laissez-faire and trickle-down policies and prevent another Democratic presidency like Bill Clinton’s that raised taxes on the upper 2 % income bracket. Mr. Murdoch pays the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck millions of dollars a year to preach his ideology. According to the ratings, he gets what he pays for.

Today, as former W. Bush-speech-writer David Frum has conceded, the Republican Party works for Fox. Murdoch even hires failed Republican candidates to give them continued exposure. Mike Huckabee has his own show. Sarah Palin, who appears to have little if any knowledge or insight on key issues, is a political analyst! One of my former co-workers told me that “She’s hot!” but admitted he would never vote for her.

Grover Norquist: president of Americans for Tax Reform

Grover Norquist is the Mephistopheles Wizard of Was.  He is the founder (1985) and president of Americans for Tax Reform. Any candidate who wants right-wing money and endorsements has to sell his or her soul to this guy. He gets them to swear to never vote for any tax increase no matter what its purpose. He knows that if the middle class is taxed for something, then the plutocracy – the extremely rich – will be taxed more because they can more easily afford it and it is they who benefit most from our system. He’s dedicated to making the plutocracy even richer.

Did you ever wonder why the Bush-Cheney regime never asked the American people to sacrifice after 9/11 and paid for its two wars with borrowed money? Mr. Norquist owned them. You may remember when former governor Mike Huckabee announced for the presidency in 2008. He was not trusted because he had raised taxes in Arkansas and had spent money to transform Arkansas’ Interstate Highways from the worst in the nation to among the best. He was not welcome as a Republican candidate until after he had met with Grover Norquist! The former preacher must have promised never to do anything like that again!

Charles and David Koch: co-owners of Koch Industries and the fourth and fifth richest Americans

The least known of the Wizards of Was are Charles and David Koch. They inherited an oil empire, so it’s not surprising they oppose solutions to energy and climate change issues. These multi-billionaires finance right-wing think tanks, like the Cato Institute, to promote the mythological advantages of laissez-faire and trickle-down economics.

Their primary political arm is Americans for Prosperity, which created the TEA Party movement that was touted as a grass roots uprising. TEA is an acronym for Taxed Enough Already; so when the first TEA Party was held shortly after the Stimulus Bill reduced taxes on 95 % of us, it didn’t make much sense.

The Kochs put their money into creating reactionary enterprises, like the Cato Institute and the TEA Party, and then get others to contribute to them so that they take on a life of their own. The brothers then wash the blood from their hands and claim to have no involvement in them. They’re really fascinating!

The issue of tax cuts for the plutocracy – those earning more than $250,000 a year – is a unifying factor for Fox “News,” the Republican Party, and the TEA Party. In spite of our experiences over the last 20 years and before, the Wizards of Was expect us to accept the myth that cutting taxes for the rich will produce jobs while raising taxes on the wealthy will kill jobs.

However, Bill Clinton raised taxes on the super-rich in 1993 and created 20 million jobs in eight years. George W. Bush then cut taxes on the same people in 2001 & 2003 and created only 1 million jobs before the Crash of 2008. The Wizards of Was are hoping that enough voters will continue to believe the myth instead of actual results.

by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published January 19, 2011, in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor.



  1. Thank you for educating the public on the Koch brothers. They are truly scary people.

    However, you continue to portray the situation as “Republicans bad, Democrats good,” as if today’s Democrats still embraced the New Deal.

    Clinton and Obama are NeoLiberals. Despite the name, NeoLiberal economics is just a particular flavor of laissez-faire.

    It can be argued that the Democrat’s NeoLiberal policies are a kinder, gentler form of laissez-faire, but it is still laissez-faire nonetheless.

    As for Clinton creating jobs, he created a financial bubble, not real economic strength based on manufacturing.

  2. “In a recent poll by Hart Research, 87% of Democrats, 82% of Independents, and even 68% of Republicans support the passage of an amendment that would “make clear that corporations do not have the same rights as people.”

    Gee, I wonder why Obama isn’t making a big push to pass this amendment ?

  3. […] Plutocrats of the New Gilded Age ( […]

  4. […] times and have often referred to them to be among a group I call “The Wizards of Was.” (Read one of those columns here.) They have spent a lifetime attempting to return the United States to the glory days of the Gilded […]

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