America’s current tax system forces people making $50,000 a year to pay a higher rate than hedge fund managers making $2.4 million an hour. Warren Buffett penned an op-ed last week declaring that America’s super-rich have been “coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.” Lamenting the numerous tax loopholes and special breaks afforded to billionaire investors, Buffett noted that in his entire career, even when capital gains rates were as high as 39.9 percent, he never saw anyone “shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.”
Charles Koch, head of the massive petrochemical, manufacturing, and commodity speculating Koch Industries corporation, has responded to Warren’s call for shared sacrifice: “No Thanks.” In a statement to right-wing media, Koch states:
Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending. I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.
Koch’s “non-profit investments” include the group founded by his brother David, “Americans for Prosperity” (formerly known as Citizens for a Sound Economy). As ThinkProgress first reported, AFP was one the first and most well-resourced drivers of the anti-Obama so-called “Tea Party” movement. Koch-funded Tea Party events have featured speakers comparing health reform to the Holocaust, and in some cases have sponsored rallies with leaders of the “birther” conspiracy theory.
Among the Koch brothers’ other non-profit investments include far-right conservative think tanks dedicated to cheerleading the war in Iraq, spreading anti-science propaganda, and smears claiming that the poor do not really suffer. Koch has given money to educational initiatives, but in exchange for control over academic freedom that simply furthered Koch’s political beliefs. These “investments” at best advance Koch’s political ideology and at worst misinform American voters. Either way, they are hardly a replacement for “government spend[ing]” on things like food assistance and basic medical service.
According to Forbes, the Koch brothers have seen their wealth rise $11 billion in recent years, making the Koch brother among the richest in the country by being worth around $22.5 billion each. Much of those profits, however, are due to soaring gas prices and the fact Koch Industries has avoided compensating the public for one hundred million tons of carbon pollution the company produces each year. Other Koch companies also receive significant taxpayer subsidies, despite Koch’s supposed opposition to government spending. This company is among the country’s top sources of carcinogenic chemicals and air pollutants.
America has been good to Charles Koch, providing an environment where his family has made billions. But Koch doesn’t want to give back, especially through more taxation. His charitable foundation, which gives largely to right-wing organizations that support his politics and Koch Industries’ business interests, still only donates about $12 million a year — 0.05 percent of Koch’s net worth. If higher rates were imposed on the super-rich, would Koch retreat to the family’s fabulous mansions, like this one in the Hamptons, aboard its fleet of private jets in a John Galt-inspired temper tantrum? Or would they act like any respectable businessman, and continue to make a profit without complaining?