By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News
17 September 14
ight-wing oligarchs dominating our political process, like the Koch Brothers, are wealthy beyond measure. Combined, Charles and David Koch are worth over $100 billion, and make $6 million per hour. That translates to over $1600 per second, which is enough to feed someone on food stamps for an entire year. Compare that figure to the $13 million that former Kroger CEO David Dillon earned in his last year with the company, which he called “ludicrous.” Their only problem is their age – David Koch is 74, Charles Koch is 78. For their class to maintain power over American politics and government, they have to make investments in future generations to ensure their ideology will live on beyond them.
It’s been well-documented by now how the Koch Brothers are sponsoring economic programs at colleges and universities around the country. By itself, this could be interpreted as philanthropy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a billionaire donating some of his wealth to education. But the greater strategy in the Kochs’ chess game isn’t just to make themselves wealthier, but a far more sinister one. That strategy can be broken down into three steps:
1. Defund Public Schools
America’s public schools and universities are all being deprived of state tax dollars slowly but surely. This is not an accident. Model bills written by the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (an innocuous-sounding merger of right-wing state legislators and corporate lobbyists) accomplish this goal threefold. First, model legislation aimed at giving corporations huge tax breaks gets passed. Then, model resolutions stating that balancing the budget must take priority over funding public institutions are passed. Finally, ALEC legislators use those resolutions as justification to slash public services, like schools, to the bone in order to plug the gaping budget hole made by corporate tax breaks.
Florida governor Rick Scott has slashed school funding while simultaneously advocating for over $140 million in new corporate tax breaks. Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett has given out $3 billion in corporate tax breaks during his tenure, and has cut education funding by $1 billion. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker cut schools by $1.2 billion and has given out $570 million in corporate tax breaks. On its own, this could be seen as, at best, a radical gamble in economic growth with schools on the line. But when this tactic is repeated in multiple states in different geographical regions, it’s apparent there’s a strategy at play.
2. Make Schools Dependent on Private Entities for Money
At Florida State University, emails from an economics professor in 2008 show that the Koch Brothers were willing to donate millions to the university through their foundation, but only if they had a say in the curriculum that was taught and in the hiring of professors to teach the curriculum. FSU took the donation, and consulted with the Koch Foundation on who would be hired to teach courses that largely vilified government services and promoted the Kochs’ unique brand of libertarian free market ideology. At the time, Florida’s public universities had seen their funding levels fall by 41 percent over the previous five years.
Public universities traditionally depend on state government funding for 53 percent of their operational budgets. But without a dependable key funding source like state governments, colleges and universities are forced to raise tuition, which results in only a privileged class of students able to attend college. Public universities are also forced to come crawling to private interests like Koch-funded foundations for funding, which always comes with strings attached.
3. Ingrain students with Greed-Based Ideology
To be blunt, the Kochs’ economic philosophy is essentially, “Fuck you, I’ve got mine.” In 1980, David Koch ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket. Some of his proposals included killing Medicare and Medicaid, eliminating federal campaign finance laws, doing away with all environmental protections, abolishing the minimum wage, and privatizing water systems, railways, and the post office. Koch also called for eliminating laws that prevent creditors from gouging debtors with high interest rates, deregulating private health insurance companies, and killing the food stamp program.
In the college and high school courses on Libertarian thought offered by the Institute for Humane Studies, a Koch-funded think tank, many of these ideas are taught to unsuspecting and impressionable young students. As the Center for Public Integrity reported, students are taught about how sweat shop workers in third world countries don’t have it so bad, how the federal minimum wage kills jobs, and how the Environmental Protection Agency is bad for the environment.