Charles G. Koch’s early 2016 ABC interview statement that Hillary Clinton may make a better president than Donald Trump—and that he may actually vote for her—triggered a vicious smear editorial by the New Jersey Star-Ledger. I won’t address all of the falsehoods in the editorial, which are really just rehashed Leftist sound bites. But here are a few excerpts from Billionaires Behaving Badly: Trump has Koch flummoxed:
Charles Koch symbolizes the vulgar power of money in the post-Citizens United world, where he advances the careers of candidates who protect his interests with legislation and misinformation. But he seems to have arrived at two gut-seizing conclusions that must feel like the branch is creaking.
First, Donald Trump – closer than ever to the Republican nomination after his five-state sweep Tuesday - has blowtorched the ideological purity of Koch's GOP and turned it into something unrecognizable to many conservatives.
And second, Trump makes the conservative establishment almost as irrelevant as Koch's wallet now seems to be.
Koch is hairless-cat-stroking ogre out of central casting, a former John Bircher who believes that minimum wage creates a "culture of dependency," whose legislative arm (ALEC) that has crafted thousands of corporate-friendly bills, who has waged perpetual war on solar energy, unions, voting rights and entitlements, and whose toxic empire is among the country's top polluters of water, air, and land.
He wanted a candidate who can help him shape the world to suit his agenda, but he has learned something unsettling: Conservatism isn't as important to the GOP base that has made Trump a dominant frontrunner.
Generally, conservatism is about free trade, limited government and budget discipline.
And Republican voters care less about conservative orthodoxy than Trump does: Nearly two-thirds of them want to preserve Social Security and Medicare at its current levels; more than half are bothered "a lot" that corporations don't pay their fare share of taxes.
The result is a fractured party, an opportunist who has turned hucksterism into a political movement, and a billionaire on the verge of surrender.
Apparently, the Star-Ledger is too blinded by its hateful rage to notice the contradiction: How can Koch simultaneously symbolize the vulgar power of money in the post-Citizens United world, and be irrelevant to the political direction of the party?
I left these comments, slightly edited:
There is something barbaric and evil about demonizing true American heroes like Charles Koch. Koch, like most American billionaires, is not a saint. Saints are lauded for their sacrifices for the poor. Billionaires like Koch—the kind that build market fortunes—are infinitely better than saints: They are creators of life-lifting wealth.
Charles Koch (along with his brother David) inherited a company worth $21 million—a successful company in its own right—and grew it into a $100 billion plus company, a growth rate 27 times the S&P 500. Along the way, Koch created tens of thousands of remunerative jobs and millions upon millions of satisfied polluters ......, oops, excuse me, consumers (If Koch Industries is a “toxic empire,” then every consumer that uses its products is a polluter—no escaping personal responsibility here). Best of all, Koch earned a well-deserved fortune worth $billions—a noble achievement because built on trade, the win-win voluntary exchange of value for value that benefits all and harms none. Yet the Koch fortune, like all capitalist fortunes, pales in comparison to the economic value and activity spread around in the process of building that fortune.
Worst of all for the poverty worshipping, achievement-suppressing statist Left, Koch is willing to spend some of his fortune on the battleground of ideas. In advocating for liberty and rights-protecting government, against cronyism, for freedom of production and trade, for a just society where people are free to rise as far as their ability, ambition, and personal circumstances will carry them, Koch speaks not just for himself—He speaks for millions who share his vision. The Left wants to smear, and ultimately legally silence, Charles Koch because it wants to silence the millions of ordinary people who don’t share in its state-supremacist designs.
Much of what the Star-Ledger says about Koch’s advocacy is true, and much is false. And yes, the Republican Party is intellectually comatose: It is not fascist. It certainly isn't capitalist. It is nothing. The Democrats, at least, are passionately open fascists, demagogues, and nationalist socialists. But the smear on Koch for his achievements just because he is an industrialist who is also an intellectual activist—”behaving badly”—is quite simply beneath anyone who values life and prosperity.
And, I would add to the last sentence, freedom of speech.
As an aside, a correspondent replied to my comments with a quote that dates back at least to the early 19th Century and attributed to the Frenchman Honore de Balzac, "Behind every great fortune is a great crime." It has been repeated by many to this day. I answered, “Until the rise of Capitalist fortunes by entrepreneurship, production, and trade—about which there is still a lot of superstition and ignorance.”
Good Profit—Charles G. Koch
Citizens United and the Battle for Free Speech in America—Steve Simpson