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Major Retailer Urges Workers To Take 'Civics Course' With Anti-Obama Content

AlterNet uncovers an anti-Obama program linked to the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity, spoon-fed to employees of a major home-improvement chain.

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The article's primary point is Moore's claim that the rich are already paying more than their fair share of taxes, and that to ask them to pay more would have a detrimental effect on the economy.

Jacksonian Resentment

A second piece bearing Moore's byline in the Menards course, "A Nation of Takers, Not Makers," argues that the public sector is too large, and that government employees are draining the economy. The piece opens with this misleading statement:

If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.

If you're a person stuck in a low-paying, non-union retail job, that sounds pretty awful. But Moore neglects to mention that the percentage of the workforce made up of government workers is almost exactly the same today as it was in 1960: 15.2 percent in 1960, and 15.3 percent in 2010. What's changed is the size of the manufacturing sector due to the offshoring of manufacturing jobs -- something Moore and his paymasters at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (which owns the Wall Street Journal) and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (from which he's collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees) are all in favor of. 

The very title of the "Takers, Not Makers" piece invokes the old right-wing "producerist" trope,  described this way by Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons in their book, Right-Wing Populism in America:

Calls to rally the virtuous "producing classes" against evil "parasites" at both the top and bottom of society is a tendency called producerism. It is a  conspiracist narrative used by repressive  right-wing populism. Today we see examples of it in the Tea Party and Republican Party rhetoric, some sectors of the Christian Right, in the Patriot movements and armed militias, and in the White Supremacist Right.

Berlet and Lyons go on to explain producerism's origins during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, during which a "vision of the producing classes included white farmers, laborers, artisans, slave-owning planters, and 'productive' entrepreneurs…"

In the Menards civics course, which also addresses the nation's early history, Andrew Jackson is given an outsized role -- four pages unto himself, more word spillage than devoted to any one of the nation's founders, for instance. What makes Jackson such a hero to Menards? He paid off the national debt in full before leaving office. (The method by which he did this had nothing to do, the reader is assured, with the ensuing Depression.)

Fear-Mongering on Regulation and Environmental Protection 

Other articles in the Menards civics course focus on the evils of cap-and-trade pollution-curbing schemes which, the reader is told, "have resulted in the pilfering of nearly $1 trillion from the private sector." The Waxman-Markey bill, supported by the Obama administration and which aimed to apply a cap-and-trade framework to reduce carbon emissions, is described as a threat to job security, and would, according to Menards, "destroy between 1.8 million and 2.4 million jobs."

Cap-and-trade is also a favorite bugaboo of Americans for Prosperity, and coincidentally an idea fiercely opposed by Koch Industries, whose core business is in the gas, oil and coal sectors.

Also targeted for the ire of Menards management is the auto bailout, and the TARP measures that bailed out the big banks. Meanwhile, government programs aimed at helping smaller businesses are described as a government plan for making small businesses dependent on government.