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This Week: Right-Wing Hypocrisy Revealed, Again. PLUS: Behind the 'Occupy Wall Street' Protests | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

This Week: Right-Wing Hypocrisy Revealed, Again. PLUS: Behind the 'Occupy Wall Street' Protests

KOCH TO HAYEK: USE SOCIAL SECURITY! In series of private exchanges revealed this week by Nation reporters Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, billionaire patron of free-market libertarianism Charles Koch privately championed the benefits of Social Security and Medicare to Friedrich Hayek, the leading laissez-faire economist of the twentieth century. In what The Atlantic’s James Fallows tweeted as the “greatest story ever,” “Koch to Hayek: Use Social Security!” offers a rare glimpse into how two of the most important figures shaping the Republican Party’s economic policies privately felt about government social insurance programs. It is a must-read tale revealing a complete betrayal of the ideas Koch and Hayek championed—and that the Koch Brothers are now selling to the American public.

The private correspondence began in 1972 when Koch became president of a libertarian think tank, the Institute for Humane Studies, and attempted to woo Hayek—who had fallen ill in Austria—to serve as the Institute’s “distinguished senior scholar.” In one letter, the right-wing billionaire urged the libertarian philosopher to collect Social Security (which Hayek was already eligible for because of prior employment at the University of Chicago) and use Medicare coverage for hospital care when visiting the US. As Ames and Levine point out, nowhere in the exchanges do they worry about the alleged socialist takeover of America. “It’s simply a given that Social Security and Medicare work, and therefore should be used.” Be sure to read the piece and take a look at the excerpts of the letters, available here.

TAKING BACK THE AMERICAN DREAM. Americans are suffering the worst economic crisis and the most serious disparity between rich and poor since the 1930s. Yet today we’re witnessing a triumph of a strong conservative movement that has mobilized many frustrated citizens to act against their own interests. As Tea Party–fueled Republican extremism pervades our politics and policy in Washington, we are compelled to stop and ask: What happened that has led to the conservatives’ dominance in the political debate in our country at a time of crisis? What happened to the political left? I joined NPR’s Talk of The Nation host Neal Conan and professor Michael Kazin this week to explain that there are, in fact, progressives, left thinkers and activists working in this country not only to reset the economic narrative but also out there organizing, demonstrating for jobs, for a more just country. These efforts, however, have received shamefully little media attention. If you’ve been reading the mainstream media, you would have heard woefully little about The American Dream Movement, led by Van Jones of Green For All, MoveOn.org, the Campaign for America’s Future, The Center for Community Change and dozens of other progressive and labor organizations. But these groups are mobilizing energy for widespread progressive organizing. As we report, on October 3, activists from across the country will gather in Washington at the Take Back The American Dream Conference to push for an agenda that has broad support and represents the real priorities of America’s middle class: jobs, growth, investment in infrastructure and education, tax reform and the rebuilding of our basic social contract and safety net that once gave a path to prosperity for millions of Americans. And while the the Occupy Wall Street protests in downtown Manhattan are finally receiving deserved attention—in those first days, too many in the media dismissed the protests as exhibitionist or fringe. If you want to learn more about the young people of the Occupy Wall Street movement—and why this occupation may contain that spark to grow into a transformative movement—read Nathan Schneider’s “Occupy Wall Street: FAQ.”

SAVE THE POST OFFICE! The United States Post Service is nearing default, and the privatization vultures and deficit hawks want to pick apart this essential public service. But like so many, its workers are taking to the streets. Days ago, postal workers staged nearly 500 rallies throughout the country to protest newly proposed Republican legislation—which, if passed, would gut services and cut up to 120,000 jobs. On MSNBC’s The Ed Show this week, DC correspondent John Nichols took on the controversial bill, arguing that it could eventually lead to the privatization of mail service. This would have a significant detrimental effect on everything from local journalism to voting rights—and Obama is doing little to stop it. As Nichols explains in this week’s issue, the Post Office is not only a vital community asset, it’s well positioned to lead the country into the digital future. Read that here.

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