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A Divided America Enriches Billionaires

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought havoc on every aspect of our country and no one is immune to it, except for one class of Americans: billionaires. While millions of working families struggle without a job, billionaires have seen their net wealth skyrocket during this accelerated time of wealth disparity. They’ve enjoyed an explosion in net worth of nearly a trillion dollars, according to a study by the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness. Maintaining that wealth disparity means keeping working families away from the most shocking of truths – our economy is only serving the ultra-wealthy, and it’s become much worse with tax breaks and handouts during the pandemic.

The way to keep people away from that truth is to distract and divide the population. If you can get Americans fearful and fighting amongst themselves, it’s harder to unify and focus on the real problems with our economy. Sparking outrage has become an almost daily occurrence for President Trump and a massive right-wing media apparatus, benefiting the billionaire class they champion. Meanwhile, those manufactured controversies are parroted by a web of anti-worker groups across the country that serve as front groups for the priorities of the uber-rich.

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One of Trump’s most egregious attempts to divide our nation was to call the novel coronavirus a Democrat hoax and publicly cast doubt on its severity, while personally aware of the dangerous truth. A right-wing anti-worker network called the State Policy Network took the same tack, with some affiliates declaring COVID-19 no worse than the flu and that fatality numbers were inflated. Trump later moved on to inflaming racism in our country by calling Black Lives Matter a symbol of hate. The ultra-regressive Heritage Foundation shared the sentiment by calling BLM  “committed Marxists” and a “destructive movement.” As the election nears, Trump is threatening that a President Biden will destroy the suburbs. Another anti-worker group, “Freedomworks” chimed in that Kamala Harris was “ruthlessly opportunistic” and “wants to end private health insurance.”

None of these things are true, and yet they can set citizens against each other, keeping their eyes off the real problem – structural wealth disparity. What is true are the incredible financial benefits gifted to our nation’s wealthiest companies and citizens while everyone has been distracted. The 2017 tax cut helped billionaires pay a lower tax rate than working families. When the government issued forgivable COVID-relief loans for small businesses, millions of dollars were instead gobbled up by wealthy corporations and even a few of the aforementioned anti-worker groups. Even the recent payroll tax reductions disproportionately benefit the wealthiest. While normal workers might pay $250 less, the top 1% of earners could pocket over $50,000 each in tax dollars that should be going to schools, healthcare, and infrastructure.

On the other end of the spectrum, unionized workers are fighting to unite people and focus on what matters: family income, healthcare, well-funded schools, strong communities, and job safety. The AFL-CIO set out a bold framework for improving all workers’ lives during and after the pandemic. They’re fighting to keep workers employed and protecting the dignity of retirement. They want to protect and expand health insurance for all workers. They’re also committed to keeping frontline workers safe and secure. Unions are the powerful voice of Americans joined together to make our economy work for all of us, not just Wall Street and the billionaires.

The Sarah Huckabee Sanders book tour makes a virtual stop in Washington tonight. We’ll be there and live-tweeting.

Each year at their fundraiser, the failing “Freedom” Foundation tries to stay relevant by picking a fringe right-wing celebrity or pundit to entertain. They’ve hired noxious personalities like Laura Ingraham, Dinesh D’Souza, and WA State Rep. Matt Shea in years past. Tonight they bring in seasoned liar Sarah Huckabee Sanders, once a frequent apologist for Donald Trump and his racist policies, notably his calling neo-Nazis “very fine people” and putting migrant children in cages.

But past speakers haven’t seemed interested in the “Freedom” Foundation’s stated mission; they likely just see it as an opportunity to pitch their brand to the few fringe right-wing activists that attend these events. This year is no different, as Sanders will be hawking her new White House memoir book. While we don’t expect much attendance, the Northwest Accountability Project will be watching and live-tweeting the event.

Follow the Northwest Accountability Project HERE tonight on Twitter at 7 pm PDT as we share excerpts and observations from the event. 

So who is Sarah Huckabee Sanders?

When America rose in shock and fury at Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents, Sanders was there to defend him. She falsely claimed that the policy preceded the Trump administration, and like a toddler tried to shift shame to others for not fixing it, while citing the Bible as justification for the heinous acts. At a press conference, a reporter pleaded with her: “Come on, Sarah, you’re a parent. Don’t you have any empathy for what these people are going through?” Sanders failed to respond except to tell him to “settle down.”

Sanders and Trump also spent a lot of time demonizing the Muslim community. She defended Trump when he spread unverified anti-Muslim propaganda online, saying, “whether it’s a real video, the threat is real.” Sanders frequently lied to cover Trump’s conspiracy theories linking Muslims with terrorist threats. After the October 2017 terrorist attack in New York City, Sanders falsely claimed that immigrants coming to the U.S. through the diversity visa program are not vetted. She also lied that 4,000 suspected or known terrorists had tried to enter the country through the southern border. The real number was 6.

After fascist James A. Fields killed a counter-protester at the “Unite in the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, Trump infamously said there were “some very fine people” on both sides. Even as ultra-conservative allies like Sen. McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham denounced neo-Nazis, Sanders carried Trump’s water, dismissing claims he had honored fascists at the rally. Instead, she promised the president had “been very outspoken” against racism and hate. Pressed by a journalist to explain when exactly Trump had condemned neo-Nazis, Sanders deflected to accusing Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN) of a neo-Nazi type of hate.

Staffers at the right-wing “Freedom” Foundation have their own sordid history of bigotry and anti-immigrant hate speech. But, it could be the ease and frequency with which Sanders can lie that drew them to her for this event. They’re an organization that drops millions of dollars pretending to care about workers’ rights while in the shadows doing everything they can to slash jobs, lower wages, and cut benefits. Not surprisingly, their daily deceptions have failed to convince much of anyone, just like Sanders experienced from the White House press room.

Drowning in Covid Denialism

With the shocking news that President Trump and the First Lady have both tested positive for COVID-19, it’s clear that the effort to manufacture doubt about the seriousness of COVID-19 has been a monumental disaster. Poll after poll shows a bi-partisan majority of people in America support mask mandates and believe the Coronavirus to be a real threat. In fact, the day the President and First Lady announced their diagnosis, 45,694 fellow Americans were also diagnosed, and 847 other Americans died. The Northwest Accountability Project wishes all those diagnosed a speedy recovery, and our thoughts are with the families of those who did not recover.

In an interview recorded earlier this year with renowned reporter Bob Woodward, the President said the disease was “deadly” but that he also wanted to “play it down.” 

“Play[ing] it down” apparently meant a deluge of lies about the pandemic.

Right-wing organizations, pundits, and other elected officials followed suit and trumpeted the lies and doubt. They called into question public health expert’s integrity, promoted unproven drugs, made the simple act of wearing a mask a divisive political battle, sued state governments over public safety measures, and some even minimized the significance of the death of elderly people.

They pushed pseudoscience that is akin to arguing that cigarettes don’t cause cancer, or climate change isn’t caused by human behavior. Billionaires astroturfed protests with faux militia members standing outside Capitol buildings with large guns calling on Democratic Governors to prematurely reopen their economy. These protests rarely, if ever, happened in states where Republicans were in charge, even though similar measures were in place.

Now, the President — the leader of this anti-science barrage — is sick with just 4.5 weeks to go until Election Day. His health and age put him in a category to potentially develop severe symptoms. Some foreign policy experts have warned that this could be a national security threat. All of this is just days after he mocked his opponent for wearing masks regularly during their first debate while the First Family sat indoors maskless.

As the President flounders in the polls and begins the path to recovery, American’s are overwhelmingly concerned about their health and safety, their jobs and their kid’s schools while the families of more than 200,000 Americans grieve.

Covid denialism has been a monumental failure.

In the Northwest, one of the leaders of the Covid-denial movement is the extremist “Freedom” Foundation, a far-right political organization that has been engaged in a failed, five year, $20+ million campaign to try to destroy unions and elect right-wing candidates. They have failed miserably and have resorted to even more extreme Covid-denial tactics than the President. They’ve sued states over mask mandates and business and school closures. They have pushed pseudoscience and baseless internet talking points to call into question safety measures that protect people. They even sent a fundraising letter, minimizing the Covid deaths of children, in an attempt to prematurely reopen our schools.

But now Trump, the leader of their movement, is sick and his future is unknown. Will their tone change? Will they realize how dangerous they all have been? That remains to be seen. For now, all we can do is take safety measures seriously and try to get past this once -in-a-century pandemic — it’s the only way to safely reopen our economy and schools, protect frontline workers, and prevent as many deaths as possible.

Once Again Frontline Workers Are Saving Us

A message from our Executive Director Peter Starzynski about the fires across the Pacific Northwest:

I write to you from Montana, where my wife and I have evacuated our home with our two young children to escape the hazardous smoke and terrifying fires in Oregon. There are people in our family with respiratory issues, so we decided to depart when the smoke rolled in, and we were asked to prepare for evacuation. We’re shaken but safe, grateful for our health and refuge. We’re tired but aware of our privilege as the fires have wreaked havoc on so many lives.  It was nerve-racking to flee our home, with uncontained fires closing in, but our family’s safety, as for most people, is our biggest priority.

Catching my breath for a moment, both figuratively and literally, I am filled with gratitude and amazement for how the people in our state have come together. Our first responders and frontline workers are sacrificing so much to help quell these ravaging fires. Our communities are answering the call to rise up to volunteer and donate to the greater good. However, there are still others, right on queue, who promote unfounded conspiracy theories to forward a political agenda. But they aren’t worth the few breaths we all have left.

We should all focus our attention on working families, especially public workers like firefighters, the Sheriff’s office staff, Department of Transportation staff, forest management specialists, public health staff, and all government workers working day and night to protect the rest of us.

These are the same government workers who some have maligned and denigrated for decades because a cabal of right-wing organizations has spent billions propagating anger at their wages, healthcare, retirement benefits, and voice on the job.

The Northwest Accountability Project exists to expose these extremist groups that try to push divisive agendas and propaganda. These groups are trying to cut the pensions of firefighters and other public workers, slash their “lavish benefits” and “handsome salaries,” and regularly accuse public sector workers of lying, coercion, and corruption. They are bankrolled by billionaires like the Devos family, the Waltons, and the Koch brothers who simply want to pay less in taxes and hoard more wealth.

Those on the front lines today are our neighbors and friends and deserve not only our gratitude but good compensation and adequate protections on the job. They need unions.

Our organization will continue to fight for all working families in the Northwest, and I send a deep thank you to those protecting our communities from the horrific fires. We’ll continue to call out any outfit or front group that seeks to denigrate public workers’ critical work.

As we approach more days of uncertainty, please know that we’re thinking about you all and all of those affected. If you’d like to help support organizations caring for those impacted, displaced, or injured by the fires, please see our links below:

Stay safe. In Solidarity,

Peter Starzynski
Executive Director
Northwest Accountability Project

Anti-Worker Groups Are Cashing In On COVID Denial

Until recently, President Trump was cheerleading the idea that our nation’s COVID-19 pandemic was no big deal, and that it would be over soon. Even though he secretly knew the virus was dangerous and highly contagious, he tried to “play down” the severity of the virus, mocked those who wore masks, and guffawed at the idea of ever wearing one himself. That changed in July as either reality or his desperate advisors finally got through to him, and he donned a mask for his visit to the Walter Reed military hospital.

He has not been alone in his COVID denialism, as a ten-minute viewing of FOX News will attest. But in the denial crowd, there is a particularly noxious subset that risks public health by claiming the pandemic is a mere conspiracy and hopes to make money while doing it. Trump seems to have reluctantly moved on, now focused on sowing division in the streets, but other COVID deniers are staying the course to cash in.

A far-right conspiracy club called The John Birch Society, based in Appleton, WI, is warning their readers that the pandemic is a cover for ushering in “a new world order.” They warn that the scheme, orchestrated by a globalist group of Deep State elites, will bring about dominance by technocratic elites, with “royalty and mass-murdering communist tyrants” already on the bandwagon. Writers at the Society insist masks don’t stop the virus anyway, and shutdowns aren’t necessary. They ask for donations and membership dues to help their fight against the “COVID overreach” that supposedly threatens all of our freedoms.

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Cut from the same cloth as The John Birch Society, over on the West Coast, an extremist group calling itself the “Freedom” Foundation is running a fundraiser based on similar denials of the pandemic. The donations fuel frivolous lawsuits against the safety measures we can all take to slow down the virus’s transmissions, such as wearing masks. Or as one “Freedom” Foundation attorney described the safety measure, “junk science.” Meanwhile, a complaint has been filed against the group for not following state laws about employee or visitor safety. While their staff accuses the state health department of “deceiving the public,” the national director urges kids back into school before it’s safe because apparently, COVID is no worse than the flu. Nevermind the 187,000 (and growing) dead Americans.

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The bounty of cash raked in from the COVID denial populace may have inspired one of the right-wing “Freedom” Foundation’s clients. Slidewaters, a water park in a county that just saw 179 new COVID infections in the last two weeks, has been fighting against state-mandated safety orders for months, insisting they know best how to keep people safe. Disregarding the possibility of their park becoming a potential virus super-spreader with thousands of customers, they remained open until they were fined by the state, leading the owners to decry “Big Government and overreaching politicians preaching the need for a Utopian society…” A notice of the fine is posted on their GoFundMe page.

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As our society grapples with a once in a century health crisis, it’s so disappointing to see groups like these leading in the wrong and dangerous direction. Getting through this pandemic and reopening our economy requires us to work together to stay safe and follow health experts’ advice to keep the curve down, not jockey for personal gain like the John Birch Society, extremist “Freedom” Foundation, and Slidewaters.

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