Dark Money by Jane Mayer

Have you ever wondered why the rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer? Why is Lanark, like thousands of other towns, a shabby, forlorn place with rapidly deteriorating public services? The answers lie both far away and close at hand. Ultimately, it is due to the rapacious greed of the powerful, their lust for money. Proximately, it is due to the conservative interest of the financial errand boys who impose austerity and are rewarded with their own little pile of lucre. Together they trouser shed loads of cash whilst scoffing at you for paying tax.

As the most powerful nation on Earth, The United States has set the tone. Jane Mayer shows how it works in this meticulously reported history. A network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views have bankrolled a scheme to take control of American politics. The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet. Their core belief – that taxes are only for the poor, that big business should be free to exploit the vulnerable, are sincerely held.

The chief figures in the network are Charles and David Koch, whose father made his fortune in part by building oil refineries in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany. The patriarch later was a founding member of the John Birch Society, whose politics were so radical it believed Dwight Eisenhower was a communist. The brothers were schooled in a political philosophy that asserted the only role of government is to maintain laws and to enforce property rights.

When libertarian ideas proved decidedly unpopular with voters, the Koch brothers and their allies chose another path. If they pooled their vast resources, they could fund an interlocking array of organizations that could work in tandem to influence and ultimately control academic institutions, think tanks, the courts, statehouses, Congress, and, they hoped, the Presidency.

Richard Mellon Scaife, the mercurial heir to banking and oil fortunes, had the brilliant insight that most of their political activities could be written off as tax-deductible ‘philanthropy.’ These organizations were given innocuous names such as Americans for Prosperity. Funding sources were hidden whenever possible. The process reached its apotheosis with the manufactured populism of the Tea Party movement, abetted mightily by the Citizens United decision—a case conceived of by legal advocates funded by the network.
The network is disciplined, smart, and ruthless. Mayer documents instances in which people affiliated with these groups hired private detectives to impugn whistle-blowers, journalists, and even government investigators. And their efforts have been remarkably successful. Libertarian views on taxes and regulation, once far outside the mainstream and still rejected by most Americans, are ascendant in the majority of state governments, the Supreme Court, and Congress. Meaningful environmental, labour, finance, and tax reforms have been stymied.

Jane Mayer spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews, including with several sources within the network. She scoured public records, private papers, and court proceedings in compiling this book. In a taut and convincing narrative, Mayer traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by the network and provides vivid portraits of the colourful figures behind the new American oligarchy.

Since we live in a globalised world with global trade and instantaneous financial transactions, no nation can elude the power of the global elite Mayer describes. Every Government cowers in fear of the ‘international financial markets’. When the speculation and rapacious greed go too far, a crash ensues as in 2008. Naturally, the ordinary tax payer and the poor are made to pay the price. Bankers, hedge fund managers, corporate investors, lawyers and accountants never lose.

Read Jane Mayer to find out how you’re being stuffed, and how austerity is guaranteed to damage your life over the next 20 years. Then feel the consolation of knowing that $21 trillion has been siphoned away to offshore accounts (http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2012/07/23/super-rich-hide-21-trillion-offshore-study-says/#723d442373d3). Nothing that a few baubles on a Christmas tree can’t mask for a while. Merry Christmas.

Enquire at your local library. To see if this important title is in stock the online catalogue is to be found at https://www.sllclibrary.co.uk/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/OPAC/BSEARCH

Jane Mayer (http://jane-mayer.com/bios/jane-mayer) is an American investigative journalist who has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1995. In recent years, she has written for that publication on money in politics, and government prosecution of whistle blowers.

464 pages in Scribe UK

First published 2016

ISBN  978-1925228847

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Jane Mayer

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