Now that ThinkProgress and others have exposed the poisonous influence of the Koch billionaires on American politics, Charles Koch is fighting back. In a rambling op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, the pollution-conglomerate CEO announced that he’s proud of propping up Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) in his fight against public unions and the middle class. Koch goes on to attack the “crony capitalism” of businesses that have enmeshed themselves with the public sector:
Government spending on business only aggravates the problem. Too many businesses have successfully lobbied for special favors and treatment by seeking mandates for their products, subsidies (in the form of cash payments from the government), and regulations or tariffs to keep more efficient competitors at bay.
Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.
The Koch empire — with subsidiaries ranging from cattle ranches to think tanks — is perhaps the ultimate example of crony capitalism. The Koch brothers influence government by whatever means necessary — lobbyists, campaign contributions, non-profit donations, television ads, grassroots organizing, pundits, media, lawsuits. They’ve funded an entire generation of conservative operatives who will fight for special favors for their multi-billion-dollar pollution enterprise. They’ve spent over $40 million lobbying Congress since 2008 on dozens of pieces of legislation. They’ve unleashed lawyers on numerous environmental and health regulations.
The American public want clean air, safe water, and a healthy planet. If Charles Koch actually believed in the “open market” and raising our “standard of living,” he would allow our democratically elected government to take action to protect Americans from global warming pollution.
The virulence of the Koch brothers’ opposition to climate policy — to anything that would make polluters instead of society pay for the cost of their pollution — is purely a matter of self-interest. The immense profitability of their carbon holdings depends on their freedom to pollute without consequence.
If their pollution was fairly priced in a free-market system such as the cap-and-trade markets the Koch successfully demonized in Washington, the Kochs would be facing costs of anywhere from $1 billion to $40 billion a year. Spending well less than $1 billion a year on their political and philanthropic activities, the Kochs have made a brilliant investment to defend their killer business model.
The Kochs have gamed our economic system by subverting the government just like any other crony capitalist.