August 26, 2019

David Koch's Legacy

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Billionaire industrialist David H. Koch, who with his older brother Charles poured a fortune into right-wing causes, transforming the American political landscape and shaping U.S. policies on such issues as climate change and government regulation, died Friday at 79." AP News

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From the Left

The left is critical of Koch’s legacy, in particular his resistance to action on climate change.

“When billionaire libertarian David Koch died this week following a decades-long battle with prostate cancer, the Arctic was rapidly melting. The Amazon rainforest was on fire. And the Earth had just experienced its hottest month in recorded human history. These planetary conditions mimicked closely what scientists had tried to warn the public about 30 years ago, when they first sounded the alarm on climate change. They were also the warnings Koch worked most of his career to make sure the American public never accepted, nor did anything about.”
Emily Atkin, New Republic

“David Koch worked tirelessly, over decades, to jettison from office any moderate Republicans who proposed to regulate greenhouse gases. In 2009, for example, a South Carolina Republican, Representative Bob Inglis, proposed a carbon tax bill. Koch Industries stopped funding his campaign, donated heavily to a primary opponent named Trey Gowdy and helped organize teams of Tea Party activists who traveled to town hall meetings to protest against Mr. Inglis. Some of the town hall meetings devolved into angry affairs, where Mr. Inglis couldn’t make himself heard above the shouting. Mr. Inglis lost re-election, and his defeat sent a message to other Republicans: Koch’s orthodoxy on climate rules could not be violated.”
Christopher Leonard, New York Times

Koch Industries can “claim the distinction of being one of the country’s most highly polluting companies, behind only ExxonMobil and American Electric Power… By Greenpeace’s reckoning, in the 20 years to 2017, the Kochs ploughed about $127m into 92 groups that were involved in rebuffing climate crisis solutions… There has been much discussion in recent months about the very public spat between the president and the Koch brothers, with the Kochs calling Trump’s trade tariffs ‘detrimental’ and Trump lashing back that the billionaires were ‘a total joke’. With the exception of trade policy, which is anathema to the free market Koch view of the world, the truth about Trump, though, is that he has adopted many of the rightwing postures the Kochs have long espoused.”
Ed Pilkington, The Guardian

Some argue that, “like all giants in a society, his legacy is unwieldy and full of contradictions that defy a simple reading. As a 42% stakeholder in the second largest privately held company in the country, Koch was said to have a net worth of around $50 billion, making him the 11th-richest person on the planet… But unlike others in his ranks, Koch had one of the freest wallets for charities of his choosing: his lifetime philanthropic giving topped $1 billion to causes such as the Smithsonian, Lincoln Center and cancer research. He patronized groups that preached civility even as he nudged his political arm to portray Obama as an existential threat to American capitalism. Such complications only made Koch that much more of an enigma, a role he hardly minded.”
Philip Elliott, Time

“Koch’s principles were not purely partisan. He supported same-sex marriage and abortion rights and believed in the value of free trade and humane immigration policies. He reviled the war on drugs and pushed, quite successfully, for criminal justice and prison reform…

“He gave $100 million to New York-Presbyterian Hospital; $150 million to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; tens of millions to the Hospital for Special Surgery. Another $100 million went toward renovating the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. Another $65 million, to restore the fountains and plaza outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Another $20 million, to the Museum of Natural History. Much of what Koch’s legacy was will be argued over for decades, as it should be. Some of it will deliver aid, comfort and enrichment to people who care not one whit about the name on the hospital wing or museum wall.”
Editorial Board, New York Daily News

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right celebrates Koch’s philanthropic legacy, and points out his disagreements with conservative orthodoxy.

From the Right

The right celebrates Koch’s philanthropic legacy, and points out his disagreements with conservative orthodoxy.

Koch “was a tireless champion of the poor and practiced what he preached. He poured his personal wealth into funding research against cancer and expanding hospitals. He supported the arts in New York and elsewhere providing many of his critics with gainful employment on brilliantly lit stages… His passing is a loss for the nation and the millions of people who benefited from his personal generosity. David Koch lived his life practicing what he preached — allowing the free market to elevate mankind in their own industry with their own self-appointed destiny and allowing mankind to then help others unrestrained by a jealous and covetous government. The government may have gone to war against poverty, but David Koch actually elevated people out of poverty.”
Erick Erickson, The Resurgent

“Long before the Business Roundtable endorsed the idea that business contributions to society must be broader than profits, David Koch was demonstrating what a conviction businessman could do for society. In his case that included satisfying customers, providing jobs for thousands of employees, meeting America’s energy needs, promoting policies to spread freedom—and stepping in with the philanthropy he believed is preferable to waiting around for the government to do it.
He helped his company make money, and he left the country richer and freer because he did.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Many note that “despite Koch’s extensive involvement in libertarian and conservative movements, he had begun distancing himself from the Republican party in recent years. He had serious disagreements with Donald Trump on a number of policy issues, including the president’s pro-tariff stance and his emphasis on restricting immigration. As a result, Koch chose not to direct his donor network’s funds to the Trump campaign in 2016.”
Amory Manuel, The American Spectator

“Koch allies understandably roll their eyes at the notion they secretly control a GOP led by President Donald Trump — the tariff-hiker who tweeted last year ‘The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade,’ dismissing both their ‘money’ and ‘bad ideas’ — and running trillion dollar deficits in a time of relative peace and prosperity. But they have undeniably had their wins. It is hard to imagine criminal justice reform passing, in an unlikely collaboration with the Trump administration, without their efforts…

“They have fought against occupational licensing requirements that make it difficult for working people to do things like braid hair, highlighting government regulations that can actually hurt the poor. They opposed mass incarceration before it was fashionable to do so on the Democratic presidential debate stage, indeed even while some were still boasting of their toughness in supporting the opposite policies.”
W. James Antle III, The Week

“Koch himself was a supporter of gay rights, abortion rights, drug legalization, and much else that does not fit very comfortably on the current ‘right wing’ agenda… Koch, born in 1940, came from an era in which conservatives had not abandoned the cities, their institutions, and their culture, had not declared Lincoln Center and all of Manhattan — and California and Chicago and Wall Street and the Ivy League — enemy territory. He was part of a conservative movement founded by William F. Buckley Jr… These were urban men, members of the hated ‘elite,’ and even in many cases part of the ‘establishment.’”
Kevin Williamson, National Review

“David #Koch was far more successful — and far more generous, philanthropic & actively committed to human progress — than literally any of the small, miserable people celebrating his death will ever be. He was a giant worth mourning.”
Guy Benson, Twitter

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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