If you believe this one, there’s a bridge across the Golden Gate for sale that might interest you. Arch-capitalist right-wing billionaire oligarchs David and Charles Koch, self-styled Masters of the Universe, have decided to declare war on poverty – an institution that the very system they embrace has created and continues to feed, and from which they benefit so much. In fact, it’s little more than an attempt to bribe the poor and convince them to vote in the Koch’s best interests – and against their own.
Apparently, their Royal Highnesses, King David and King Charles, have realized that their attempts to buy political candidates and legislation doesn’t always work. Today, they’re spending millions on “outreach programs” targeted at low-income people with the goal of winning them over to their libertarian, no-holds-barred, unfettered, no-regulation-no-rules, unrestrained capitalist philosophy. Toward this end, the Koch Brothers are giving away turkeys and holiday dinners, offering free English language courses for Spanish-speakers as well as “healthy living” classes, vocational training and “couponing” classes.
This is all a ploy to convince the poor that their brand of politics and the their royalist economic beliefs are somehow “compassionate.” It is also a brazen and pathetic attempt to change the perception that they are simply out to rig the game through their bribes to right-wing GOP politicians. Jennifer Stefano, regional director of the Koch-funded front group Americans for “Prosperity” (who herself would gladly see the working poor and everyone else die for the inability to afford proper medical care) said “We want people to know that they can earn their own success. They don’t need the government to give it to them.” She describes the program as “the new way to advance freedom.”
What “freedom,” Ms. Stefano? The freedom to work two jobs for slave wages? The freedom to go hungry and cold? To be sick and to die for want of medical attention? Because that is what the Koch Agenda is all about. Lower wages, no worker rights or protections, no health care, and education only for the children of the “aristocracy.”
Sounds a bit like Victorian England. David Brock, reformed conservative-turned-Progressive and founder of Media Matters for America, gets it right: these “enticements” (let’s call them what they are: bribes) are “creepy…like something Hezbollah would do to get recruits.” It’s even more than that: Kenneth Vogel of Politico compares it to the Tammany Hall “machine” that virtually controlled New York City politics for eighty years between 1854 and 1934.
Whether he’s delusional and actually believes his own bulls**t, or is simply trying to make his egregious agenda palatable and trick the underclass into believing it, Charles Koch continues to insist that his goal is a lofty one. In a 2013 interview in the Wichita Eagle, he claimed that providing help to the less fortunate was his major incentive. He said, “the most critical thing in overcoming poverty and creating human well-being was having a free society and in particular having economic freedom.” Koch added that the “avalanche of regulations we’ve had advanced…undermines the standard of living and human well being.”
Indeed, Your Majesty? Tell that to the people of West Virginia, who have had their water poisoned by the mining, oil and chemical industries. Tell that to the people of Oklahoma, who have seen their homes and property destroyed by fracking. Tell that to people who have to work two and three jobs just to make ends meet because the pay is dismal and benefits are non-existent.
But let’s give Chuck and Dave the benefit of the doubt for a moment. For example, it’s true that the Americans for “Prosperity” foundation gave away over 100,000 gallons of bottled water to residents of West Virginia after the water supply was fouled by a company called “Freedom Industries” almost two years ago (after the organization had fought tooth-and-nail against stronger environmental protections). Of course, Stefano called that an opportunity to “demonstrate our values of individual responsibility and the private sector stepping up in times of need, instead of waiting for government.” But then, maybe if there had been stronger environmental protections, there wouldn’t have been any need for the government to provide bottled water in the first place.
The bottom line here: whether they’re actually sincere (albeit delusional) or (as is far more likely) they’re trying to turn the U.S. and the rest of the world into their own personal latter-day fiefdom, the Koch Brothers are primarily concerned with their precious image and public perception. Yes, they’re prepared to spend nearly $900 million in 2016 in order to rig the election in favor of themselves and their fellow oligarchs. But they’re realizing that simply throwing money into political races doesn’t always guarantee the results they’re after. In this election cycle, the flood of secret corporate and billionaire money being used to influence elections is a hot-button issue across the political spectrum. Surely, they must understand that their attempt to buy elections could backfire.
Worse, they know they’re outnumbered. The main reason their candidates even get elected in the first place is that too many people are not bothering to vote (or the vote is being suppressed).
Therefore, like the Nazis, the Bolsheviks and other oppressive regimes throughout history, the Kochs have realized that they must at least attempt to win hearts and minds. Koch Industries executive and Chuck’s personal goon, Richard Fink, in the spirit of Mad Men’s Don Draper, told attendees at a private meeting last year that it’s all about finding out what people want: “We want to find out what the customer wants…not what we want them to buy.”
The fact remains that the Kochs do want them to buy their agenda. They’re willing to spend millions of dollars in order to successfully sell it. The problem is, more and more people are finding this out – and once they understand what that agenda is, they’re not buying it.
If they do not understand it, we at The Ring of Fire and other progressive media outlets will be here to explain it to them – as well as remind those who remember life in the U.S. prior to the 1980s of just why that agenda hasn’t worked for three decades.