The right-wing press is chock-a-block with articles decrying the Obama administration’s romance with industrial policy. So reflexive is this ideology that some of them are even written by major beneficiaries of industrial policy, whose sense of entitlement must be so ingrained that they fail to notice this anomaly.
Exhibit A appeared in Monday’s Wall Street Journal op-ed page, in which Charles Koch of Koch Brothers fame took out after crony capitalism and industrial policy.
“We are on dangerous terrain when government picks winners and losers in the economy by subsidizing favored products and industries,” Koch wrote. He further complained that government is currently “subsidizing and mandating politically favored products in the energy sector,” singling out “solar, wind and biofuels” for examples of sectors currently being helped out.
But not a word about oil and gas can be found in Koch’s litany of complaints. Could this be because Koch Industries, of which Koch is chairman and CEO, was originally and is still primarily an oil-refining and pipeline company, though it has also diversified into such fields as paper, asphalt, chemicals, cattle ranches, commodity trading, and buying elections? A study by the Environmental Law Institute has tallied the amount of U.S. subsidies to the fossil fuel industry between 2002 and 2008 at roughly $72 billion. Earlier this year, President Obama called for ending the subsidies to oil companies, but a bill by Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to do just that failed to muster the 60 votes required to surmount the cloture barrier this summer (it got 51 votes). Though Koch Industries spent more than $50 million on its lobbying efforts in Washington from 2006 and 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, there’ s been no report of it lobbying for Menendez’s bill to end the government’s subsidy to the oil industry.
Koch’s hypocrisy isn’t his alone. It epitomizes the double standard of right-wing opponents of industrial policy who neglect to note all the industrial policies that benefit either their own industries (if they’re oil men, bankers, military contractors, and so on) or the industries that write them checks (if they’re politicians who are funded by oil men, bankers, military contractors, and so on). The oil depletion allowance is industrial policy, lowering the tax bills of such behemoths as Exxon-Mobil at a time when public needs and the deficit are soaring. The exclusion of derivatives from regulation, which banks insisted on over the cautionary objections of Clinton administration Commodities Futures Trading Commission chief Brooksley Born, was industrial policy, benefiting the banks while imperiling, and eventually bringing down, the entire economy. Congressional appropriations for military hardware that the Pentagon neither wants nor needs is industrial policy. The fact that 27 nations have treaties with the U.S. that enable their residents to avoid any U.S. taxation of their casino winnings is industrial policy that brings in millions, if not billions, in high-roller business to such GOP mega-donors as Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn. You get the picture.
Yet Koch, Adelson, Wynn and Wall Street are providing unprecedented levels of funding to the cause of removing Obama and his dangerous ideas about industrial policy.
Like I said, Chutzpah Prize for the Week, and it’s only Monday.
By: Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, September 10, 2012
In the eyes of the American public, Wichita-based Koch Industries is coming to stand more for right-wing string-pulling than for its blockbuster oil and gas business. For years, David and Charles Koch spent millions mostly behind the scenes to advance anti-environmental and anti-labor policies and to attack Democratic candidates for office. In the last two years, however, their expenditures have routinely made news. In the wake of the high-profile standoff in Wisconsin– where Gov Scott Walker was caught explaining to a prank caller impersonating David Koch his plans to break public employee unions– Koch Industries has dedicated time and money to mitigate fallout from the politics of the men in charge. The company’s website includes an op-ed and a video defending Koch politics. Today comes news that the company has been buying up anti-Koch web addresses as part of its new brand-management strategy.
Researchers at the progressive group One Wisconsin Now found that, on August 17, the day after the last of the recall elections in the state forced by Democrats aghast at Walker’s politics, Koch Industries bought up “at least three anti-Koch domains: StopKoch.com, StopKochIndustries.com, and AntiKoch.com.”
The domain name “StopKoch.com” for example has now been “parked” by an “online brand protection” firm called Melbourne IT on behalf of an administrator working from 37th Street in Wichita, Koch headquarters, and connected to a @KochInd.com email address.
“After spending over $40,000 to get Gov. Scott Walker elected less than a year ago and $250,000 on Republicans in Wisconsin’s recall effort, the billionaire Koch Brothers are already on the defensive against the ‘Stop Koch, Save Wisconsin’ buzz on the internet,” writes One Wisconsin Now.
One of the groups the Kochs presently bankroll is the activist organization Americans for Prosperity. AFP was a major pro-insurance industry player in the anti-health reform push last year, organizing tea party rallies and funding literature and commercials that made wild claims about the proposed legislation being a totalitarian assault on liberty.
Today, AFP is touring Colorado to rally support for favorable policies for big oil and gas companies. In a release announcing the “Running on Empty Tour,” AFP Foundation President Tim Phillips resurrects the kind of reaching anti-Obama rhetoric that characterized AFP’s contributions to the health care debate, where the president was viewed as a statist dictator seeking to euthanize Americans through “death panels.”
“Obama’s hostility toward domestic production and his desire to use high gas prices to change Americans’ driving behavior are contributing to the escalating cost of fuel,” Phillips is quoted to say in the release.
In fact, the Obama administration has made bold moves to open up drilling in the U.S. and has drawn criticism for doing so. Oil and gas companies own leases on tens of millions of acres onshore and offshore that they have yet to develop. A recent study by the Interior Department reported that half of all onshore federal leases are not currently being utilized by the industry.
At the top of the “newsroom” section of the Koch Industries website, the company runs a quote by Charles Koch that, to an increasing number of people, may serve mostly to bring to mind the sketchy political strategery funded by the brothers over the years.
“A positive reputation is built by behaving consistently with sound principles, creating real value, achieving compliance excellence and living up to commitments.”
By: John Tomasic, The Washington Independent, August 24, 2011
Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have been dominant financiers for conservative front groups and nonprofits for nearly three decades. Their money has flowed to organizations dedicated to lobbying for corporate and upper income tax cuts, as well as to groups responsible for mobilizing Tea Party rallies against President Obama. But the Koch family’s association with fringe right-wing groups began a generation earlier with Fred Koch, the patriarch of the clan.
Fred not only founded the company now known as Koch Industries, he also was a founding member of the John Birch Society. As a founding board member, Fred helped engineer a hysterical wave of attacks on labor, intellectuals, public education, liberal clergy members, and other pillars of society he viewed as a threat. Birchers decried everyone from former President Eisenhower to water utility administrators as pawns in a global communist conspiracy. In the last two years, as the Koch name has become synonymous with right-wing plutocracy in the United States, the Koch family has played down its relation to the Birchers.
However, the New American, the official mouthpiece of the John Birch Society, published a piece this morning celebrating Fred and the Koch family’s pivotal role in developing the group:
Koch warned that American institutions were honeycombed with communist subversives, from labor unions and tax-free foundations to universities and churches. Art and newsprint, radio and television — all these media had been transmuted into vehicles of communist propaganda. [...] Fred Koch was no fly-by-night pamphleteer. He spent a generous portion of his later years using his wealth and influence to fight the communism he abhorred. He was an early member of the The John Birch Society’s National Council, an advisory group to JBS founder Robert Welch. Koch supported a variety of freedom-related causes, all the while continuing to build the company today known as Koch Industries.
The Bircher ode to Koch glosses over Fred’s record of bigotry. In a booklet he authored, Fred railed against civil rights leaders, and claimed the movement against racial segregation was a communist plot to use African Americans to destabilize the country. The Koch-funded Birchers held numerous rallies during the ’60s claiming integration would lead to a “mongrelization” of the races.
Although the present-day Koch brothers try to eschew explicit racism, their top Tea Party front group, Americans for Prosperity, is currently pursuing similar racial segregation goals. In North Carolina, the Americans for Prosperity chapter led a campaign to end a highly successful public school integration system.
By: Lee Fang, Think Progress, June 10, 2011