Sunday, January 10, 2016

Financial Review has lunch with Charles Koch

Political machine man: Lunch with Charles Koch | - Stephen Foley:

January 10, 2016 - "While Charles and his younger sibling, David, feature as boo-hiss villains in Democratic candidate speeches, their activities concern those of all political hues who fear the unchecked power of private wealth to influence the US electoral system. The Koch brothers have pushed for and used new freedoms such as those opened up by the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which removed limits on corporate political spending, to fundraise at large scale and in relative obscurity. Their network of organisations - a panoply of think tanks, campaign groups, voter registration and opposition research arms as well as political action committees - employs 1,200 people in 107 offices nationwide, about three and a half times the current staff of the Republican National Committee....

"Koch's staff have told him they expect to marshal close to $US900m from conservative donors. The money will be spent trying to influence this year's elections in favour of rightwing ideas; around a third of it on directly funding political campaigns against Democratic candidates.

"With the field crowded and voting still a way off, Koch has declined several times to endorse a Republican primary candidate....  I ask about the rhetorical turn the race has taken when it comes to dealing with Islamist terror, and about Trump's assertion that the US could require all Muslims in the country to register with the government. 'Well, then you destroy our free society,' Koch says of the idea. 'Who is it that said, "If you want to defend your liberty, the first thing you've got to do is defend the liberty of people you like the least"?'

"He then expounds on the war on terror. 'We have been doing this for a dozen years. We invaded Afghanistan. We invaded Iraq. Has that made us safer? Has that made the world safer? It seems like we're more worried about it now than we were then, so we need to examine these strategies'....

"Although Koch now calls himself a 'classical liberal' - citing William Gladstone as a political hero for opposing Corn Law trade tariffs and political patronage in 19th-century Britain - today's libertarian Republicans and leftish Democrats may find intriguing common causes. The Kochs have also financed efforts - to roll back harsh sentencing laws, reduce the US's prison population (the highest in the world) and make it easier for felons to be reintegrated into society - more commonly associated with Democrats.

"Where the Kochs and the left are never likely to see eye to eye is on the environment. Over lunch, Koch positions himself not as a denier of climate change but rather as sceptical that it justifies drastic government intervention. 'Over the past 135 years, the ground temperature has warmed - there's some debate on this - around eight-tenths of a degree centigrade. In the atmosphere [the temperature change] has been slightly less, but not enough to argue much about. A big driver is most likely man-generated CO2, but what we see is that this increase is much less than has been projected. So, the indications are that the temperature isn't as sensitive to increases in CO2 concentration as was thought. I don't see the evidence that there's an immediate catastrophe or even one in the future.'

"The level of climate change, says Koch, does not justify penalising the use of cheap fossil fuels or subsidising alternative energy companies. Tax breaks and other incentives to use solar panels, he explains, cut the cost of energy for homeowners who can afford to install them, at the expense of higher bills for the rest. 'It's the poor people subsidising the rich people, which is what happens with this corporate welfare everywhere'....

"Through our conversation, there seems to be no issue to which smaller government, freer markets and unfettered competition is not the solution. "Our worst example in this country is the way we've treated Native Americans," he says at one point. "A great portion of the property of the American Indians is held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They are not allowed to control their own." Citing the high rate of unemployment among Native Americans, he says, "This is what this whole philosophy of control and dependency does. How do you have a life of meaning? It's hopeless. So, they're a bunch of alcoholics. Well, no kidding."

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