Why Charles Koch’s awesome Bernie Sanders op-ed matters in future elections

posted at 5:01 pm on February 21, 2016 by Taylor Millard

Charles Koch has written an awesome op-ed in The Washington Post where he explains how he and Bernie Sanders actually agree on an issue. It’s one of the very few issues where the Tea party and Occupy Wall Street seemed to have common ground as well: cronyism and the buying and selling of politicians. Koch’s piece probably won’t matter in the short-term of the 2016 election cycle (and probably the 2018 and 2020), but it could have plenty of influence a decade from now. Koch unhappily writes how the rigged economy has hurt everyone, except the few businessmen that politicians have lavished favors upon.

Democrats and Republicans have too often favored policies and regulations that pick winners and losers. This helps perpetuate a cycle of control, dependency, cronyism and poverty in the United States. These are complicated issues, but it’s not enough to say that government alone is to blame. Large portions of the business community have actively pushed for these policies.

Shocking right? Not to those who have actually followed Charles and David Koch and know how they feel about cronyism. They’re certainly not in favor of it on a federal level and have spent most of their time lobbying against the buying and selling of politicians. But Charles Koch doesn’t just go after government financial handouts; he rails against a federal system which allows “the rich and powerful” to skate by on other things.

Today, if you’re poor and get caught possessing and selling pot, you could end up in jail. Your conviction will hold you back from many opportunities in life. However, if you are well-connected and have ample financial resources, the rules change dramatically. Where is the justice in that?

Arbitrary restrictions limit the ability of ex-offenders to get housing, student or business loans, credit cards, a meaningful job or even to vote. Public policy must change if people are to have the chance to succeed after making amends for their transgressions. 

This is all the federal government’s fault (and local and state governments too) for their decision to get involved in issues which go beyond the scope of the Constitution. Koch makes this clear by writing he’s not #FeelingtheBern because their solutions are completely different and Sanders is in favor of “the all empowering state,” while Koch thinks it causes more problems than not (emphasis mine).

Consider America’s War on Poverty. Since its launch under President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, we have spent roughly $22 trillion, yet our poverty rate remains at 14.8 percent. Instead of preventing, curing and relieving the causes and symptoms of poverty (the goals of the program when it began), too many communities have been torn apart and remain in peril while even more tax dollars pour into this broken system.

It is results, not intentions, that matter. History has proven that a bigger, more controlling, more complex and costlier federal government leaves the disadvantaged less likely to improve their lives.

This isn’t going to have a real effect on 2016 because I expect Sanders to keep going on his anti-Koch comments, like when he told Vox last year increased legal immigration/open borders was a “Koch brothers proposal,” and says “essentially there is no United States.” But this might cause things to change in the coming years if those so entranced by Sanders are willing to listen to the differences between larger government advocates versus smaller government advocates (one reason why it’s VERY disappointing Rand Paul isn’t in the presidential race anymore). If Koch’s message is actually heard by those who also listen to Sanders, it might cause them to look elsewhere when they become disillusioned by the idea of democratic socialism and the all encompassing state. The fact Koch’s piece has gotten Leftists racing towards a debunked book claiming Fred Koch was a Nazi sympathizer shows how frightened they are the current crop of Sanders supporters are going to eventually race to Koch’s side if they keep learning more and more about how government is the problem, not the solution. I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to Matt Welch’s piece at Reason pointing out how this shows there’s nothing wrong with praising someone on “the other side” when they actually make a good point. But what this also means is the Right (specifically those in the freedom and liberty category) have to keep pressing on issues like justice reform and how the government helps keep wealth inequality in place, instead of actually helping people get out of one class and into the other. This is a long-term battle unwinding over 100 years of thought that the government is the best way to solve things, which means you and I won’t see this happen in our lifetimes. But if it leaves America in a better spot in 2116 and the all encompassing state has been felled to the ground like Jormundgandr after his final battle with Thor, it’s worth it.


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