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Charles Koch's fix for the economy

The conservative donor thinks government benefits and regulations are the problem.
Charles Koch speaks during an interview in his office at Koch Industries in Wichita, Kansas, May 22, 2012. (Photo by Bo Rader/MCT/Zuma Press)
Charles Koch speaks during an interview in his office at Koch Industries in Wichita, Kansas, May 22, 2012.

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. "Too many businesses focus on getting subsidies and mandates from government rather than creating value for customers," he writes. With the Koch brothers' help, such subsidies have become an increasingly popular target of more libertarian and tea party-oriented wing of the GOP: The Koch-funded campaign against the Export-Import Bank, for instance, has made major inroads in the party. 

He also suggests that parts of the safety net that have been in place since the New Deal have been harmful. "Costly programs, such as paying able-bodied people not to work, are addictive disincentives," Koch writes. "By undermining people's will to work, our government has created a culture of dependency and hopelessness. This is most unfair to vulnerable citizens who suffer even as we say they are receiving 'benefits.'" While Koch doesn't name particular programs, his piece hyperlinks to stories on food stamps and welfare programs.

Conservatives are hoping that such arguments will help their political prospects come November as Americans are still largely gloomy about the economy—and blame Washington for the problems.

A new WSJ/NBC poll found that 64% of Americans are dissatisfied with the state of the economy. The poll, which surveyed 1,000 adults between July 30 and August 3, also found that Americans are pessimistic about the country's economic future: 60% saw America as being in a state of decline, and 76% said they did not feel confident that life for the next generation would be better.

Most are inclined to believe the government is at fault: 71% of respondents believe our economic problems are mostly due to "the inability of elected officials in Washington to get things done to improve the economy." President Obama's approval rating hit an all time low of 40%, though that's still far higher than the approval rating for Congress, which is a mere 14%.

The economy has shown more signs of healing in recent months. Unemployment has fallen slowly but steadily. While economists believe last quarter's 4% GDP growth was an anomaly—a temporary bounce after an unusually harsh winter—growth is expected to continue at a fairly healthy rate for the rest of 2014. 

But given the depth and severity of the recession, those gains haven't fueled a broad feeling of economic optimism. According to the WSJ/Poll, 49% of Americans still believe that we are in a recession, even though it officially ended five years ago, in the summer of 2009.

In terms of policy solutions, those surveyed were most supportive of "providing tax incentives for companies to bring back jobs from other countries," with 85% saying they felt it would have a very or somewhat positive impact on the economy. Respondents also felt positively about raising the minimum wage to $10.10—a key pillar of the Democratic agenda this year—with 60% saying they felt it would have a very or somewhat positive impact.