‘A New Kind of Liberty’ for the Koch Brothers and anyone else who can afford to buy itDuring Thursday’s Green News Report, we briefly discussed Charles Koch’s claim in his Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, that he and his brother David, are using their inherited fossil-fuel millions to discredit global warming science (and other inconvenient realities), simply because they are fighting “to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans.” Sure they are.
Over at the Washington Post’s “Plum Line” blog, Paul Waldman has another thought on the Koch op-ed this week, which was published at virtually the same moment as the rightwing judicial activists on the U.S. Supreme Court trashed 40 years of campaign finance law in order to allow the approximately 600 Americans who had already maxed out their previously allowed $125,000 per-election-cycle donations to political candidates and parties to be “free” to give millions to candidates and parties instead.
Waldman avers that the Koch op-ed and the SCOTUS McCutcheon decision “are parts of the same effort,” which, he argues convincingly, is “Nothing less than the construction of a new version of liberty.”
In his WSJ piece, Koch joined a growing procession of billionaire Rightwingersrecently whining aloud about their perceived persecution at the hands of…well, anyone who doesn’t share their political views and who doesn’t have the “freedom” to also have billions, inherited or otherwise, in their bank accounts.
“Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists [ed note: apparently he means anyone who is not a Republican?] strive to discredit and intimidate opponents,” Koch bemoans. “They engage in character assassination,” he complains, before adding parenthetically,”(I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.)”
“Poor” fellow. Waldman, however, sees the Koch Agonistes very differently…
What, exactly, is this “character assassination” of which he speaks? I haven’t seen anybody arguing that Charles Koch has weird sexual proclivities, or was a terrible father, or has poor personal hygiene. All the criticism he and his brother get concerns their enormous business (the second-largest privately held company in America) and their involvement in politics. In short, it’s about their public life, not their private life.
The system of “free and open debate” Koch envisions is one in which the volume of your voice is determined by the amount of money you have, but no matter how loud that voice, you are exempted from any direct criticism. That would be a privilege only the wealthy would want or need.
Think about it this way. Nobody is going to run an ad saying, “Barack Obama got a ten dollar contribution from Betty Lundegard of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Just how much do we know about Betty Lundegard? What’s her agenda?” The reason is that it couldn’t possibly matter, so no one cares. But if you pour $400 million into a campaign, then it does matter, and people will care. Betty Lundegard isn’t affecting very many people’s votes, elected officials won’t jump to take Betty’s calls. Furthermore, Betty won’t have the luxury of publishing op eds in the Wall Street Journal defending herself.
So freedom from criticism over your political spending is a freedom only the wealthy would need.
Waldman goes on to add: “With the McCutcheon decision, there is a way in which the sum total of liberty in America has been expanded. But do you feel freer? Unless you’ve got a few hundred million in the bank, the answer is certainly no.”
“In a strict sense,” he says, “Charles Koch and I both have the ‘freedom’ to donate a few million dollars directly to candidates. But in the actual world, only one of us has that freedom.”
Koch’s op-ed could have been much shorter and to the point had he justquoted Abraham Lincoln instead: “Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government.”
Because if Charles and David Koch — and all the other billionaire “victims” pretending they have lost “freedoms” by, like the Kochs, becoming richer than ever imaginable even just 5 or 10 year ago — had an ounce of integrity, they would simply admit that the only “freedom” they are interested in at this point is the ability to buy both public opinionand the government to go with it.
Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court once again this week, they are now well on their way…and you aren’t. Feeling freer yet?