Brave New Films have updated their documentary, Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition, on the billionaires David and Charles Koch. The Kochs like to operate in the dark, where evil is said to thrive. The best tonic is said to be shining a light in the darkness, and that is what Brave New Films has done.
Evil is an awfully loaded word, and I have only alluded to the word without direct reference to the Kochs. However, when you watch the film, now available online free (or donate what you can), and discover what drives the two silver spooners (the film made clear that the Kochs are not self-made men but inherited the oil business from their father), certain conclusions are ineluctable.
The Kochs are said to put profit above everything else. They are accused of using their money to buy politicians and policy.
Koch Brothers Exposed lays bare the brothers’ agenda:
- they are right-wing extremists4
- they are pro-segregation and pursue racially based motives
- they are pro-privatization (including privatizing public schools)
- they seek influence over the curriculum in advanced education
- they are anti-union, anti-worker
- they are anti-democratic
- they are oblivious to the necessity of a healthy environment
- they are opposed to social security or governmental assistance
- they elude justice through use of their money
These are heavy charges, but the documentary supports all such allegations.
Characterizing a business party president such as Barack Obama as a socialist, supporting Tea Party zealots, and funding right-wing think tanks is telling of the political orientation of the brothers.
The brothers funded pro-segregationist, anti-diversity school board candidates in Wade County, NC.
The Kochs are said to fund over 150 colleges and universities to the tune of more than $57 million. Koch Brothers Exposed claims the money comes with strings attached: exposure to the ideology and personal values of the Kochs.
The Kochs funded an anti-union drive in Wisconsin among other places.5
The depth of the anti-worker sentiment held by the Kochs is astoundingly exemplified by their opposition to minimum wage, charging that it creates “a culture of dependency.” One wonders about the critical thinking skills of the brothers. They appear satisfied that a class of working poor exists, and at the same time they are adamantly opposed to government assistance. They seem unaware that they began life a few steps past the 100-meter line while the indigent in America begin somewhere behind the starting line. The documentary points out that it would take a minimum wage worker 690 years to make what a Koch brother makes in a day. It is apical class warfare.
Given that minimum-wage work is unlikely to allow for savings, how do the Kochs justify their opposition to social security? They disinform that social security is broke.6
At its worst, the Kochs’ agenda has been labeled “murderous.” A poignant and especially disturbing part of Koch Brothers Exposed was the deaths attributable to the dumping of carcinogenic waste into a river by Koch-owned Georgia Pacific. The people in the predominantly Black community of Penn Road in West Crossett, Arkansas are suffering respiratory distress and cancers.
How could any sane (obviously not morally sane) person hope to entrench such an anti-people agenda?
Money? The Kochs have plenty of that. Brave New Films says the Kochs “have been handed the ability to buy our democracy in the form of giant checks to the House, Senate, and soon, possibly even the Presidency.”
The Kochs were behind the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to pouring financial resources into elections and, hence, politics.7 The brothers pushed for voter-id laws that overwhelmingly target people of color, what the documentary called a method for disenfranchisement.
How do the Kochs use their money to manage all this? Among the tactics are disinformation, the echo chamber, Orwellian slogans (in the Wade County school board the leading terms “forced busing” and “neighborhood schools” were often used), right-wing think-tanks, and Koch-funded politicians.
The money of the 1%-ers, however, can be defeated by the 99%-ers. The Koch-supported Wade County school trustees were defeated two years later.
It is a difficult grind, but sustained mass public pressure is one method to defeat the insidious effects of money.
But is it just money? Are the Kochs really just putting profit above everything else? Is it this simplistic motivation usually attributed to capitalists? Or is it something more sinister?
Political economists Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan argue otherwise: “Economists think of rationality as the cool-headed, calculated pursuit of individual utility; but capitalists seek not hedonic pleasure but relative power.”8
[I]n our day and age, the key goal of leading capitalists and corporations is not absolute utility but relative power. Their real purpose is not to maximize hedonic pleasure, but to “beat the average.” Their ultimate aim is not to consume more goods and services (although that happens too), but to increase their power over others. And the key measure of this power is their distributive share of income and assets.9
While amassing huge profits could be amorally explained as the price of operating within the capitalist system, what Bichler and Nitzan propose points to far more sinister Dalbergian motivations.10
- Greg Palast charges that Charles Koch “personally ordered the pilfering of oil.” Why? A Koch executive quoted his boss as saying, “I want my fair share–and that’s all of it.” See “Koch Brothers and the Road to ‘Citizens United,’” TRNN, 29 October 2012. [↩]
- See By Suzanne Macartney, Alemayehu Bishaw, and Kayla Fontenot, “Poverty Rates for Selected Detailed Race and Hispanic Groups by State and Place: 2007–2011,” American Community Survey Briefs, February 2013. [↩]
- Professor Ward Churchill wrote that because of the vast mineral and resource wealth of First Nation lands, First Nation peoples “should be among the continent’s wealthiest residents.” However, they have “lowest per capita income of any population group.” Ward Churchill, Struggle for the Land (Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring, 1999): 239. [↩]
- Kate Sheppard, “The Koch Brothers’ Vast Right-Wing Media Conspiracy,” Mother Jones, 4 February 2011. [↩]
- Rick Unger, “Koch Brothers Behind Wisconsin Effort To Kill Public Unions,” Forbes, 18 February 2011. [↩]
- See Kim Petersen, “Lying Big to the Public: Allen Smith on the Government’s Embezzlement of Social Security Funds,” Dissident Voice, 5 January 2010 and read professor Smith’s book The Big Lie: How Our Government Hoodwinked the Public, Emptied the S.S. Fund, and caused The Great Economic Collapse; also read articles on social security by Smith. [↩]
- See “Koch Brothers and the Road to ‘Citizens United,’” TRNN, 29 October 2012. [↩]
- Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan, “The Capitalist Algorithm,” Dissident Voice, 7 March 2014. [↩]
- Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler, “Profit from Crisis,” Dissident Voice, 19 April 19 2014. [↩]
- “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” In Letter to Mandell Creighton (5 April 1887), published in Historical Essays and Studies, by John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (1907), edited by John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence, Appendix, 504 [↩]