Five Major Problems with Charles Koch's Op-Ed in USA Today
August 6, 2014
Charles Koch's August 5th op-ed in USA Today is laughable. He spills out his vision of a country that works for the biggest corporations and richest 1% (like himself & Koch Industries), all while claiming that his agenda will help struggling American families.Here are the five major problems I see with Charles Koch's op-ed:
(1) He quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. I'm actually usually a fan when conservatives quote Dr. King, because King's message transcends partisan politics. Unfortunately, though, Charles Koch shouldn't be allowed to do this. New research from the Center for Media and Democracyshows that Charles Koch was a member of the far-right John Birch Society, which strongly opposed racial equality and civil rights. Koch has supported groups that push voter suppression laws that make it harder for people of color to vote. Koch supports busting unions, despite the fact that Dr. King was a strong supporter of unions and was assassinated on a trip to Memphis to support union sanitation workers' strike. Charles Koch does not get to co-opt Dr. King's message to fit his own, because Charles Koch stands against everything Dr. King stood for.
(2) He finds a way of attacking the minimum wage without saying it. In his op-ed, Charles Koch says "we should eliminate the artificial cost of hiring." He never mentions the minimum wage, but we know what he is talking about. It is no secret that the Kochs oppose mandating that American workers get paid a a minimum wage. In fact, they not only oppose raising the minimum wage, they oppose its very existence. This is despite the fact that research has shown raising the minimum wage would actually help the economy and alleviate poverty.
(3) He quotes two right-wing think tanks that receive significant Koch funding. There is nothing like promoting research to prove your point that you helped fund. In the piece, Charles Koch uses research from the Mercatus Center and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Nowhere in his piece, though, does he mention the amount of money those groups get from himself, his brother David, and Koch Industries. In fact, the total amount is unknown. Charles Koch and Koch Industries exec Richard Fink sit on Mercatus's board of directors and the think tank has received millions from Koch sources over the years. The Koch fortune also heavily funds the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Yet, to the average reader, those organizations seem like independent sources to validate Kochs' misguided free-market arguments, when the truth is they validate Kochs' arguments because the Kochs' paid them to.
(4) If he hates welfare, does he support full employment? Charles Koch calls out "costly programs" that are "paying able-bodied people not to work" in his op-ed (despite the fact that over 90% of those receiving "entitlements" are either elderly, disabled, or members of working households). I have a feeling that if Congress was to ever consider legislation that provided full employment for American workers, Charles Koch and his front groups would call it a "big government mandate" or "socialism."
(5) His idea of the American dream is just not reality. Sure, there have been lots of people that start off with nothing and work their way up (although Charles Koch inherited his business). Those "bootstrap" stories, though, are becoming more rare. In his op-ed, Charles Koch says "most Americans understand that taking a job and sticking with it, no matter how unpleasant or low-paying, is a vital step toward the American dream." The problem with this is that most Americans in "unpleasant" or "low-paying" jobs actually have less of chance of making it than ever before. And that is largely due to the agenda that Charles Koch has pushed on this country over the last forty years. An agenda that rewards big corporations that pay low wages, ship jobs overseas, and pollute our planet. An agenda that limits workers' ability to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. An agenda that rewards the richest and wealthiest with big tax breaks because they are "job creators," when the people who actually earn and spend money to make the economy turn are left with higher bills for healthcare, college tuition, food, energy, and housing. And Charles Koch has done nothing to help pass legislation that would alleviate that pain. So, no, Charles Koch doesn't get to talk about the American dream for people in "unpleasant" and "low-paying" jobs because his basic idea of the American reality is flawed.