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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fighting Democracy since 1964

Charles Koch recently wrote a defense of his efforts which he published on the Wall Street Journal in which he stated that he believed in basic principles that he claims define us country. For him these principles are:

..."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."

Okay, free society sounds good to me, too. But then he continues:

"Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation's own government."

Wait a minute! He's talking about Democrats, Democratic rule, civil rights, etc ... We are the ones attacking equality before the law? The statistics show that racial oppression is still alive and well. The Koch sponsored ALEC has legitimized murder of innocent folks on the grounds of "Stand your Ground" laws. His funding of organizations fighting for prohibition/abolition of abortion rights has started people back on the road of back alley abortions and use of dangerous drugs to terminate pregnancies without a doctor, already starting to kill people in areas where they've closed all the Ob/Gyn clinics. Equality before the law? He's got that with Citizens United by the Supreme court giving his corporation all the private, separate advantage it could want to bribe and influence politicians with impunity. He funded the Federalist Society that put those court justices on the bench. If his principles are under government assault they are from his own groups.

So anyway, he sees this world, apparently, on the John Birch Society principles he was taught as a child. And he says he has been fighting for his principles.

"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."

50 years ago was 1964. So he seems to feel that somehow civil rights was an infringement on personal freedom, that Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty was a war on his personal freedom. So it seems to me that Charles Koch seems to have different definitions of all these terms than the rest of us. If he's been fighting government tyranny since 1964, who is his enemy? Is it the Federal Government, or those given protection starting in 1964? Women's liberation, civil rights, religious freedom, all have been growing since 1964. And as for an "enemy" his father put out a bounty on John F. Kennedy shortly before his death in 1964. So who is Koch fighting? The Kennedy Administration? (eww, yes).

"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."

I think we can all agree that a truly free society is based on respect for all people and what they value. Keyword is "all." If one only respects the values of a minority of wealthy people, or of a particular sect, that is not a truly free society. Unfortunately, if he's right that our society has been under attack, perhaps that accounts for the concentration of wealth and power and the oligarchic competition that has replaced a genuine free-market with a free-booting market. Unfortunately what the owners of a business do with their money usually is their own business and ought not to involve their business. When one is as powerful and controls so much business as the Koch's do, then one is no longer a simple "private enterprise" but has such market control that people can't avoid buying one's products even if they want to; unless they completely withdraw from the economy.

"The same should be true of any government that disrespects its citizens.

Except I don't see any evidence that the Obama administration disrespects his citizens, even the ones who disrespect him. But I do see evidence that the Koch's and others disrespect democracy, disrespect majority rule, and are aiming to strip voting and other rights from citizens, and seem to be wanting to transfer those powers to a money based election system. One dollar one vote.

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."

But who has the government been disrespecting for 50 years? The Koch's have gotten richer and richer. Their father passed away and now they live on a massive inheritance they themselves would not have earned without help. He quotes Jefferson:

"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."

Actually Jefferson's theories of Government were funded on Lockean principles of commonwealth and commonweal. A government "of the people, by the people and for the people" is a government where people run their own lives. Neither at the dictates of a CEO dictator or of a demagogic dictator. He also warned about the power of monopolistic companies like the East India Company -- or Koch industries -- and fought them during the 1790's and through his Presidency; and their undue influence on government. So, thus he's half right:

"The more government tries to control, the greater the disaster," only half true. The more bad governments try to control people, the greater the disaster. But health care is not a disaster, doesn't need to be a disaster. And if it becomes a disaster it's because privateers like Charles Koch have decided to aim the guns of their pirate ships on a basic public good.

"as shown by the current health-care debacle."

When the people work together we solve problems, mitigate issues and make things work better for all of us.

But what he disparages as "collectivism, are democratic republican values applied to our processes and institutions. If something is wrong feedback from the people can fix it. Democratic republican values involve improved processes, feedback and separation of powers. They are meant to mitigate dysfunction.

"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."

Charles Koch is projectioning here. His movement promises lottery winnings for some and hell for "losers" and delivers hell for the majority. Democracy is not about taking "the means of production" from his greedy little hands, though we'd be better off if more people owned their own productive assets and had the power to acquire and own their own lives. I don't think he would fear "collectivism so much" that he fears democracy itself, if he understood and valued the country as much as he claims he does. On the contrary he seems to have imbibed the strange idea, which his Ayn Rand teacher (and the John Birch Society) taught him, that democracy is a form of collectivism. So he is definitely projectioning:

"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.)"

Charles Koch is under attack in the media because he and his brother are funding anti-democratic and corrupt organizations that are seeking to undermine our system. He may not get up and assault people personally, but Faux News, AEI, etc... have unleashed a constant barrage of personal attacks and false information about the ACA, about Democrats in general, and have done everything possible to defame, invent reasons to impeach, and block our current President. Thus his own folks are now the ones who engage in all the techniques and methods that he decries:

"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."

So Charles Koch, without realizing it, has become that which he hates; A despot. We can pray for a "Road to Damascus moment" but this is a man who operates an empire where he's the despot. We Democratic Republicans do have ideas that work. We aren't collectivists we are pragmatic and believe in the common weal which is an English Concept that is older than Marx. Even as he claims he is an enlightened one:

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."

Indeed. Exactly my thought in listening to his apologia. His industries have a reputation for shipping tar sand oil, for piling up tailings and for polluting his environment. He may believe he's a paragon of environmentalism. But he funds folks dedicated to deregulation and to removing impediments to him making money. And his organizations are doing this down to the county level. Maybe he's like Marie Antoinette and doesn't know the details.

He continues: "Here are some facts about my philosophy and our company:"

Koch companies employ 60,000 Americans, who make many thousands of products that Americans want and need. According to government figures, our employees and the 143,000 additional American jobs they support generate nearly $11.7 billion in compensation and benefits. About one-third of our U.S.-based employees are union members.

So one third of his employees are union members? Yet he supports organizations fighting Unions and fights the unions in his own companies when they try to organize.

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."

I'm sure they have. Revolving door anyone?

Our refineries have consistently ranked among the best in the nation for low per-barrel emissions. In 2012, our Total Case Incident Rate (an important safety measure) was 67% better than a Bureau of Labor Statistics average for peer industries. Even so, we have never rested on our laurels. We believe there is always room for innovation and improvement.


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.

Now isn't that ironic, considering he got his job because of his father.

Koch Industries was the only major producer in the ethanol industry to argue for the demise of the ethanol tax credit in 2011. That government handout (which cost taxpayers billions) needlessly drove up food and fuel prices as well as other costs for consumers—many of whom were poor or otherwise disadvantaged. Now the mandate needs to go, so that consumers and the marketplace are the ones who decide the future of ethanol.

Well we know which side of the Ethanol fight he's on.

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.

Trouble is Charles, you may not realize it yourself. But you and your organizations are running people's lives. They are succeeding, especially at state and local level, in creating governments in your image, where businessmen run people's lives and in the name of "liberty" force women to have vaginal ultrasounds. You organized ALEC and it's anti-Abortion child organization, which write oppressive legislation and fight civil rights.

"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."

Please Charles, look in the mirror. The trouble with privateers is that they talk about how bad "government" is, but they are part of government, and they seem to want to be pirate captains who can loot with impunity, but never need to share the loot.


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