Feted at the opening of the MIT Koch Integrative Cancer Institute on Friday, $100-million donor David Koch decried Republican cutbacks in federal cancer research funding. The American Cancer Society said the proposed $1.6 billion cut in funding for the National Institutes of Health in the House budget would “set back the longstanding national effort to conquer cancer.” The cuts, supported by the Tea Party Republicans Koch helped elect, greatly dwarf the private support Koch has offered for cancer research, which amount to about one percent of his vast petrochemical wealth:
Let me conclude my remarks by asking those of you here today who have the means to do so to give generously to the Koch Institute. The National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute in particular are facing serious cutbacks in their funding due to the massive deficits the federal government is incurring. If the cutbacks happen, it will significantly diminish the amount of research that can be carried out at the Koch Institute. I ask you to do all you can to maintain the superb research at the Koch Institute at its maximum level.
Remarkably, Koch does not admit his own culpability. After decades of political advocacy for tax cuts on the rich and support for deficit-creating Republicans, Koch has miraculously become a deficit hawk now that a liberal is president. The Koch brothers’ Cato Institute pooh-poohed deficit spending concerns during the Bush years, promoting Bush’s deficit-ballooning tax cuts in 2003 and telling Americans to “focus on growth, not deficit.”
The threat to federal funding for cancer research is a direct consequence of Koch’s toxic politics. Koch, his advocacy groups, and the Tea Party politicians he has helped reach office, are both anti-government and anti-science. Koch’s real priorities entirely fit his personal interests as a petrochemical billionaire, rather than the societal goals of deficit reduction and public health he supposedly shares:
— Koch, one of the world’s top greenhouse polluters, opposes reducing the federal deficit and improving public health by establishing a price on carbon emissions. A carbon tax or a cap-and-trade market could reduce the federal deficit by $300 billion over ten years and even more in following years.
— Koch, whose petrochemical companies are among America’s top toxic polluters, opposes the regulation of carcinogens like formaldehyde and dioxins. Koch’s astroturf group Citizens For a Sound Economy spent millions to fight tobacco regulations in the 1990s.
— Koch opposes the Affordable Care Act (although he’ll take its money). This landmark legislation will dramatically improve public health and reduce the federal deficit by $100 billion over ten years and by $1 trillion in the following decade.
— Koch’s companies include oil interests, financial trading, and offshore tax havens. Koch’s advocacy group Americans For Prosperity opposes ending oil industry subsidies, closing Wall Street tax loopholes, and closing offshoring tax subsidies that are worth $280 billion.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) offered an amendment to restore funding for NIH, paid for by reducing gas and oil subsidies to companies like Koch Industries. David Koch, Americans for Prosperity, and the many conservative politicians who were the recipients of his largesse failed to support Markey’s budget-neutral effort.
“Aside from ideologically pure libertarians who probably think that Thomas Jefferson went too far with the Louisiana Purchase,” Politics Daily’s Walter Shapiro wrote about the federal cancer cuts, “no one believes that battling cancer should be left to the private sector and the vagaries of the profit motive.” That is exactly what David Koch — a man who built his fortune on toxic chemicals — believes.
The best thing that Americans could do to support the fight against cancer is to reject Koch’s war on public health.