Op Ed News: Inside the Koch Brothers’ Expensive Echo Chamber

-By Robert Greenwald

June 22, 2011- Documents and interviews unearthed in recent months by Brave New Foundation researchers illustrate a $28.4 million Koch business that has manufactured 297 commentaries, 200 reports, 56 studies and six books distorting Social Security's effectiveness and purpose.

Together, the publications reveal a vast cottage industry comprised of Koch brothers' spokespeople, front groups, think tanks, academics and elected officials, which have built a self-sustaining echo chamber to transform fringe ideas into popular mainstream public policy arguments.

The Koch brothers' echo chamber has successfully written the messaging for the AARP, a traditional defender of Social Security for all generations, which recently opened the door to cutting benefits.

The Koch echo chamber begins with think tanks like the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the Reason Foundation, which owe their founding and achievements to Koch backing. These think tanks take their $28.4 million in Koch funding and produce hundreds of position papers distorting the long-term health of Social Security.

The authors of these hundreds of self-described policy studies, newsletters, commentaries and books are then paraded through television, print and online news media. Their distorted message is amplified through shows like Hannity, with its 3.3 million viewers per episode, or CNBC's Kudlow Report and its roughly 300,000 viewers per episode night after night after night.

Eventually, elected officials react to the Koch echo chamber and typically shift their position for reelection or the next campaign.

The investigation revealed Koch-supported policy fixes, and specific language repeated across each document, such as raising the retirement age or eliminating cost of living adjustments for Social Security dependents and beneficiaries.

These Koch ideas percolate through the echo chamber and into the mainstream. The frequency and repetition of the arguments supplant more popular policy recommendations like scrapping the Social Security tax cap, which would free individuals earning more than $106,800 annually to pay taxes on all of their wages, like everyone else.


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