Thursday, April 3, 2014

An Open Letter Response to Charles Koch

Dear Mr. Koch,

When I read your letter to the American people in the Wall Street Journal, I felt I had to respond. I am not doing this because I think you will actually read these words or that, in the end, this letter will make that much of a difference to you if you do. I had to point out the insult in your opinion piece. I had to do this because, in this age where money now equates to speech, I had to throw as much “free” speech into this conversation as I could.


You, your brother, and others like you represent a huge, ever widening divide in America. In a land whose origins rested on equality and stories of individuals pulling themselves up by their bootstraps to become successful, you represent an affront to the American dream.   

In your opinion piece, you reference Thomas Jefferson as a historical perspective to support your views on limited government, in justification of your efforts for a “free America." I offer my counter. On the subject of wealth inequalities, Jefferson wrote;

“I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable. But the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on.” Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, was writing to James Madison about the gross inequalities of wealth he observed in pre-Revolution France. His observations there led him to realize that the massive accumulation of wealth and gross inequality of its distribution represented a danger to the American people. 

You are worth roughly $40 billion, 365 thousand times more than the median American family. You and your brother were born into wealth from your father’s oil company and your grandfather’s railroad and newspaper businesses. Through the efforts of organizations like the CATO institute, the Heritage Fund, and Americans for Prosperity, you hold immense political power and influence. You even hold enough sway that you can elicit the exact type of political mandate on things like climate taxes that you rail against in your op-ed.

The reach of your political network extends to push for massive, ecologically damaging projects for your own benefit like the XL Keystone Pipeline, and derailing mass transit efforts. You are also connected to efforts to limit voting rights, and even corruption. Instead of going into depth on these subjects like I have in the past, I really want you to understand one thing.


In your piece you hail the tenets of, among other things, “equality before the law” but the truth is that there is no equality in America. Those who hold unfathomably massive wealth also hold far more influence on, and have access to, unequal levels of our political infrastructure.


You and your brother are so far removed from the actual American experience that you represent what is wrong with our country and where it is headed. A government run for the interests of the wealthy and the corporations in which they have interest. This Plutocracy that represents your vision of a future filled with “freedom” is so far from the American dream that it is a disgusting insult when you try to press your vision on the rest of us by twisting the words of a founding father.

The Koch name will go down in history as a warning against the oily, slimy influence that corporatists can have on our country. The more the American people become aware of your influence, and the influence of those who have gained from Citizens United and subsequent rulings, the more we will fight you and fight for our future. We will fight for future for all of the American people and not just the 1%.

35 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more. The Koch Brothers represent a growing pervision of capitalism influencing democracy. If the trend continues, we may rival Russia's oligarchy in just a few generations.

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    1. Not sure it will take a few generations.

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    2. The oligarchy has been here in the United States since before the fall of the USSR. They have finally perfected their evil craft. It's as good as done and there is only one way out.

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  2. You had me for a bit but where you fail is the third to last paragraph. Equality does exist.
    The problem is that the political infrastructure/politicians can be influenced to begin with. Politicians are corrupt and it is unfortunate they hold power.

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    1. No. Equality does not exist.

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    2. You misunderstand. Equality does not exist when the outcomes of our "Justice System" is available to the highest bidder which in case you have not been watching, is the case.

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    3. You can't complain about corrupt politicians as if the corruption exists in a vacuum. Who does the corrupting? Politicians rarely go to the wealthy selling their influence, it is far more often the wealthy throwing money at politicians until they find those willing to play along.

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  3. This mans math is terrible, 40 billion divided by 2,666 is more than 15 million.

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    1. It still comes out to $1.5 million, and this is still much too high. The average is around $500k, and the median is closer to $100k

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    2. 40,000,000,000 / 26,666 = 1,500,037.50. You're both way off? The "average american" doesn't have a net worth of $1.5 million. The average net worth of a household in 2007 (the latest year that this wikipedia page has statistics) was $506.5k. I'm pretty sure it hasn't tripled in the past 6 years. The mean net worth, which is a much more appropriate figure to use here, of an american family was $109,500.

      Math failure aside, that just makes your claim even more shocking when you plug it in to the equation.

      40,000,000,000 / 109,500 = 365,297

      That means Koch's net worth is 365 thousand times the median net worth of an american family.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth_in_the_United_States#Statistics

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    3. A figure of 80,000 would put the net worth of the average american at $500,000, and that's probably still grossly overestimated.

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  4. Let all men have their say, rich or poor. It is called the American Way.

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    1. and you mean it as in "we started practicing in the 1950's sort of"?

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  5. Well said Andrew. Never stop.

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  6. Opportunities to rise above poverty do exist. I've done it, although not to the level of being a one-percenter. What I have done satisfies me.

    Maybe you should spend less time writing letters and more time improving your skills, such as learning the difference between illicit and elicit.

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  7. Dead on. Not like he will probably even read this or care, but we're taking what's ours back... Quickly. And the Koch's should be terrified!

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  8. What is your point? These people are wealthy, so what. So are a bunch of people in Hollywood who support liberals....So is Soros. What are you, like 10 years old?

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    1. It isn't about the wealth, its about how it is spent. Koch's influence in environmental issues is harmful to the earth and health of the living. Much of his money is spent to spread his influence in politics that will sustain his wealth while others live in poverty.

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  9. My favourite part about the video "Economic Freedom in 60 Seconds"-- is that all of the countries that the US has fallen behind in, with the exception of Mauritius, have government controlled healthcare in some fashion. Congrats Koch, you only see the world through gold-tinted glasses...

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  10. Good on you, man. You are right on target. Thanks for taking the time to put this up. I only wish more people actually understood what you are saying. That they use the names of folks like Jefferson to push their perverse intent on the rest of us is just sickening. Thanks!

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  11. There are a couple of things that I don't like about this:

    1. The US was built on stealing land, cheating natives and killing them - that's just plain facts.

    2. The problem with inequality goes far beyond the taxation issue, there's also an education issue, of those who believe that are entitled to be maintained by someone else - of that variety you have rich people and poor people. In my opinion that's the real issue: those with money don't want to give it away because there's a sense that most of the social programs only promote people laziness.

    To me the solution is to help the wealthy understand how it is convenient for them to give their money away and those who have none to understand that nothing in life comes easy and that if they want something they have to work for it.

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    1. Tell me one country in the world that didn't take the land they currently have from somebody?

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  12. All governments are run badly, don't you get it?

    If you scrape the fluff out of the way, I think you and Koch agree.

    Koch's political power is only that which the government has sold him. Stop the dealer, forget the junkie.

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  13. I am laughing at the hypocrisy... How soon we forget about George Soros... oh wait... he is a Democrat...

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  14. The Kochs are an example of what I call the Crazy Rich. If you are not happy at a certain level of extreme wealth (say, earning $20 million per year), you have significant psychological issues. A person with such issues should perhaps not be given such massive influence over the direction of our civilization.

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  15. I like how you cherry picked this to make your point but why not include some context. The topic Jefferson is speaking about is primogeniture and entail. This would be about French law requiring land ownership to pass from father to first son and requiring the owner to keep the land intact to pass on to his son. Jefferson is calling for a legal system that permits everyone to buy, sell, and use his property without asking leave of government, a system that does away with legally mandated special privileges that have no reference to individual achievement. The current translation would be advocacy for smaller government.

    “His observations there led him to realize that the massive accumulation of wealth and gross inequality of its distribution represented a danger to the American people.” Your conclusion is wrong. It wasn’t the mass accumulation of wealth but the confining property in a small number of hands prevented large numbers of “industrious and rational” poor from putting their natural talents to work acquiring property of their own.

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  16. Apparently when George Soros uses his money to promote his political agenda, it's okay. I don't agree with either side doing it, but at least be honest - you are comfortable when the side spending the money echoes your personal political opinion, and up in arms when they don't. That's just blatant hypocrisy.

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  17. actually it says 266,666 times but hey close enough

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  18. it doesn't help their image any to remember that their uncle was the #1 fuel supplier for the 3rd Reich....well, until 1945 anyway.... perhaps it could be said that the Koch brothers come by their inherent lust for corporate "rule by decree" a bit honestly. they're not trying to "influence democracy", they're trying to eradicate it by corrupting politicians until the system breaks, then step in with their own "corporate solutions".

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  19. If I understand, the problem with the Koch Brothers is that they have unfathomably vast pools of personal wealth? Or is it that they have unfathomably vast pools of wealth and didn't start from nothing? Or is it that they have unfathomably vast pools of wealth, did not start from nothing, and have bad politics? Or is the aforementioned and they wield political influence the likes of which people without there wealth can never hope to achieve?

    I submit there is not a basis in reason to oppose Mr. Koch, but merely a basis in emotion. Your quarrel is with the constitution as interpreted by a majority of the justices, not those who take advantage of the liberties afforded to them. Your remedy is not to oppose the Koch brothers and speak against them, though it is fashionable, easy, and lazy. Your remedy is to muster the political will to pass an amendment to the U.S. constitution that distinguishes money from political speech as protected in the First Amendment. That is your sole remedy. Anything else is sensationalism and sentimentality of the worst kind.

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  20. Many thanks, Andrew. Democracy means the PEOPLE RULE. The behind the scenes manipulations of these two brothers through ALEC and other organizations deliberately undermines this basic premise of our democracy. (Gerrymandering, voter suppression, "Trayvon Martin" laws and buying and selling our political representatives.) We need to stand up to it, amend the Constitution and take back our country for the PEOPLE.

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  21. Can someone cite the author praising or advocating Soros if they're going to try to discredit him through it?

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  22. While I agree with you Andrew, I feel that you are unfortunately charging at windmills. The inequity has long and far surpassed any hopes for a moral plea to affect any real change. This country is no longer a democracy, as the recently published results of the Princeton/Northwest University study show. [pdf link here: http://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materials/Gilens%20and%20Page/Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf ] America is an Oligarchy. Direct your efforts to the people who are being lied to, manipulated, oppressed, and abused for the sake of an addiction to greed among the excessively wealthy on both sides of the Congressional aisle, and perhaps you can slowly begin to elicit change. In the mean time, keep up the good work.

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