Charles Koch speaks during an interview in his office at Koch Industries in Wichita, Kansas, May 22, 2012.
Bo Rader/Zuma Press

Charles Koch’s prescription for a better economy

Updated
A few months ago, Charles Koch, the CEO and chairman of Koch Industries, wrote an op-ed lashing out at “collectivists” engaged in “character assassination.” His piece included an obligatory Saul Alinsky reference and was largely ignored.
 
This week, Koch is giving it another shot with a new op-ed, this time in USA Today, which focuses less on his perceived foes and more on his economic vision. Suzy Khimm explained yesterday:
Most Americans are feeling downbeat about the state of the economy, and conservative donor Charles Koch thinks that he has the answer.
 
Koch, the CEO and chairman of Koch Industries, laid out his prescription for the economy in a USA Today op-ed Wednesday. His views are largely in line with the mainstream GOP, blaming excessive government regulation, Obamacare, and government benefit programs for the lackluster economy.
 
But Koch also blasts the kind of corporate welfare that some Republicans continue to defend.
The closer one looks at Koch’s piece, the more areas of concern arise.
First, we need to encourage principled entrepreneurship. Companies should earn profits by creating value for customers and acting with integrity, the opposite of today’s rampant cronyism. Too many businesses focus on getting subsidies and mandates from government rather than creating value for customers. According to George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, such favors cost us more than $11,000 per person in lost GDP every year, a $3.6 trillion economic hit.
It’s worth noting that George Mason University’s Mercatus Center is financed by the Koch brothers, so it’s not an entirely objective source. Regardless, let’s not forget that one of the businesses that’s benefited from government subsidies is Koch Industries.
Compounding the problem are destructive regulations affecting whether and how business invests and employees work. Federal rules cost America an estimated $1.86 trillion per year, calculated the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a libertarian think tank that’s also benefited from the Kochs’ generosity. But putting that aside, what he sees as “destructive regulations” others see as safeguards to protect the environment, guarantee a minimum wage, and ensure safe workplace conditions. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.
Second, we should eliminate the artificial cost of hiring. Government policies such as Obamacare have given businesses a powerful incentive to hire two part-time people to do one full-time job.
There is literally no evidence to suggest the Affordable Care Act has undermined the job market. Indeed, 2014 is the first year for full ACA implementation, and the United States is currently on track for its best year for job creation since the ’90s.
Third, we need to guide many more people into developing skills and values that will enable them to reach their potential. Everyone knows education increases a person’s ability to create value. But the willingness to work, an essential for success, often has to be taught, too. When I was growing up, my father had me spend my free time working at unpleasant jobs. Most Americans understand that taking a job and sticking with it, no matter how unpleasant or low-paying, is a vital step toward the American dream.
Charles Koch didn’t have to “stick with” these “unpleasant jobs” very long – he inherited a massive oil company from his father. It’s a different kind of “American dream” than the one available to most of us.
Finally, we need greater incentives to work. Costly programs, such as paying able-bodied people not to work, are addictive disincentives. By undermining people’s will to work, our government has created a culture of dependency and hopelessness.
Ah yes, the unemployed will no doubt be far more hopeful once jobless benefits no longer exist. It’s an argument based on an assumption: struggling Americans are lazy and addicted to government handouts.
I agree with Dr. Martin Luther King. There are no dead-end jobs. Every job deserves our best. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper,” King said, “he should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”
Far-right voices should not appropriate Dr. King for their economic arguments. Let me say that again: far-right voices should not appropriate Dr. King for their economic arguments.
 
One more time: far-right voices should not appropriate Dr. King for their economic arguments.
 

Koch Brothers

Charles Koch's prescription for a better economy

Updated