Pity The Poor Billionaires: Charles Koch Edition

Where I respond to Charles Koch's cheesy whine about "collectivists" and "liberty."
Pity The Poor Billionaires: Charles Koch Edition

Aw, poor Charles Koch. He wants everyone to know he's being persecuted by mean "collectivists" around the country for being a really good guy, so he ran to the Wall Street Journal and put an op-ed out so we could all know what evil Alinsky-ites we are and how he's really, really the good guy who is fighting to restore a free society.

His first mistake was expecting those he's aiming his message at to actually read or pay attention to the Wall Street Journal. If he really cared about his message, he'd go live on the Rachel Maddow show.

But let's hear him out anyway. I'll quote his complaint and respond below.

I have devoted most of my life to understanding the principles that enable people to improve their lives. It is those principles—the principles of a free society—that have shaped my life, my family, our company and America itself.

Principles laid out by none other than the John Birch Society. You forgot to note that part. Your father was a founder, and you were steeped in their principles from a very young age. Call it whatever you want, but these vaunted principles were spawned in the living rooms of fearful white folks across the country, led by Jack Robert Welch*.

Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation's own government. That's why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles. I have been doing so for more than 50 years, primarily through educational efforts. It was only in the past decade that I realized the need to also engage in the political process.

What dignity, respect and equality are you referring to, White Rich Man? The dignity of being turned away at the doctor's office for lack of health insurance? The respect given by a government who thinks it's perfectly fine for people to die in the street, or to starve children rather than give food stamps? The equality of suppressing some people's votes in order to make sure your 'principles' are the ones that win? The liberty to work for a wage below the living standard?


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Or would it be the dignity, respect and equality granted to us by your Almighty Markets, gamed by Those Who Have to make sure more of us are Have Nots?

Or perhaps it's the dignity, respect and equality granted to our first African-American president, who you seem to think should walk around with a target painted on his back and spitballs lobbed at him at every turn?

If that's dignity, equality and respect, I'll take the alternative.

A truly free society is based on a vision of respect for people and what they value. In a truly free society, any business that disrespects its customers will fail, and deserves to do so.

Well, except for the businesses that disrespect gay people, or black people, or brown people. You were perfectly fine with funding groups obsessed with making sure those groups were disrespected and humiliated at every turn.

The same should be true of any government that disrespects its citizens. The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.

If you're speaking of the government who tells women they can't make their own health decisions with regard to contraception and abortion, you'd be right. But wait -- those are the people you pay the big bucks to, so they can't be the ones, right? You send millions to organizations who support not only banning women's right to make their own decisions, but actually criminalizing their behavior in the process. That's not collectivism, though. It's dictatorial discrimination and conceit on a scale equal to your ego.

If, on the other hand, you're speaking of the government that opens the doors to millions to have access to affordable health care, who regulates Wall Street sharks and who protects our natural resources and environment, then it's you who are the failure, not "collectivists".

Is this what your little rant is all about? You know you've lost the war on Obamacare, and so now it's all about "collectivism?"

More than 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson warned that this could happen. "The natural progress of things," Jefferson wrote, "is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." He knew that no government could possibly run citizens' lives for the better. The more government tries to control, the greater the disaster, as shown by the current health-care debacle. Collectivists (those who stand for government control of the means of production and how people live their lives) promise heaven but deliver hell. For them, the promised end justifies the means.

I'm suppressing the urge to scream "neener neener neener" in your face. It really is about health care! Wow, you're truly angry that I have access to affordable health care. Too damned bad.

You've just confirmed everything Harry Reid said about you. You are really upset that my family and my friends' families are able to buy health insurance that is now regulated by the federal government.

Bite me. Get over yourself.

Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.) This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinsky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society—and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers.

Rather than try to understand my vision for a free society or accurately report the facts about Koch Industries, our critics would have you believe we're "un-American" and trying to "rig the system," that we're against "environmental protection" or eager to "end workplace safety standards." These falsehoods remind me of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's observation, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." Here are some facts about my philosophy and our company:

He who criticizes should first clean his own house. Shall we talk about Americans for Prosperity, where you spent millions on ads that were lies? Or how about the millions sent to your 60 Plus Association for "education", which was then laundered through other organizations in order to kill proposals to raise taxes to pay for schools in California and bust unions? How about all of the millions you and your pals spent to defeat campaign finance around the country?

Those things you claim "collectivists" do are really what you do. So spare me the tears and shaken fists.

Koch companies employ 60,000 Americans, who make many thousands of products that Americans want and need.

Not so much. I've boycotted your products for years and don't miss them.

About one-third of our U.S.-based employees are union members.

Give it time. In five years you'll have that number whittled down to around one-tenth.

Koch employees have earned well over 700 awards for environmental, health and safety excellence since 2009, many of them from the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. EPA officials have commended us for our "commitment to a cleaner environment" and called us "a model for other companies."

That's how it rolls when you own the EPA. I'm guessing those awards were granted between 2001-2008.

Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs—even when we benefit from them. I believe that cronyism is nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful, and should be abolished.

Sure you have. Tell us more. Are you willing to end Subchapter S corporation status right now? Because I'm pretty sure if you did you'd have some tax issues that you're dodging right now.

Koch Industries was the only major producer in the ethanol industry to argue for the demise of the ethanol tax credit in 2011

.

That wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that ethanol competes with Koch Industries' primary products, would it?

Instead of fostering a system that enables people to help themselves, America is now saddled with a system that destroys value, raises costs, hinders innovation and relegates millions of citizens to a life of poverty, dependency and hopelessness. This is what happens when elected officials believe that people's lives are better run by politicians and regulators than by the people themselves. Those in power fail to see that more government means less liberty, and liberty is the essence of what it means to be American. Love of liberty is the American ideal.

Ah, liberty. That thing you buy, but the rest of us have to earn. I have tasted the liberty of having my bank account depleted to pay for my family's health needs. I have eaten the fruit of the liberty tree that told me it was fine for me to lose my home, my savings, my retirement and my health. I have tasted the liberty that says I'm too old, too female, too costly to fill even the most menial jobs. That's the same liberty that demands expensive unsubsidized college educations with years of indentured servitude to follow.

That's the liberty you speak of? That liberty strands people in a life of inescapable poverty, dependency and hopelessness. Thanks, but no thanks.

If more businesses (and elected officials) were to embrace a vision of creating real value for people in a principled way, our nation would be far better off—not just today, but for generations to come. I'm dedicated to fighting for that vision. I'm convinced most Americans believe it's worth fighting for, too.

At least seven million of us see liberty in a different light. That's 7 million who won't be fighting for your flavor of liberty, because they've been freed from the bondage of second-class citizenship.

You're a billionaire, but you're just one person. There are millions of us, and our votes count just as much as yours does. So dry your tears and run along. The Obamacare battle is done. We won; you lost. That's how it works sometimes. You can't buy everything, no matter how much you're willing to throw away.

*Name corrected.

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