Yes, America Is Rigged. Here is What I Learned from Reporting on Koch Industries.
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The election season of 2015 and 2016 was defined by chaos, infighting and a pool of deep resentment that came boiling over when votes were cast. But this election was barely noticed. It happened on February 17, 2016, in a rundown labor union hall in Portland, Oregon. Union members were voting on a new contract with their employer, Koch Industries. The union members felt powerless, cornered, and betrayed by their own leaders. The things that enraged them were probably recognizable to anyone who earns a paycheck in America today. Their jobs making wood and paper products for a division called Georgia Pacific had become downright dangerous, with spikes in injuries and even deaths. They were being paid less, after adjusting for inflation, than they were paid in the 1980s. Maybe most enraging, they had no leverage to bargain for a better deal. Steve Hammond, one of the labor union’s top negotiators, had fought for years to get higher pay and better working conditions. And for years, he was outgunned and beaten down by Koch’s negotiators. So even as the presidential election was dominating public attention in late 2015, Hammond was presenting the union members with a dispiriting contract defined by surrender on virtually everything the union had been fighting for. He knew the union members were furious with his efforts. When he stood on stage to present the contract terms, he lost control and berated them. “This is it guys!” his colleagues recall him yelling. “This is your best offer. You’re not going to strike anyway.”
I thought of the free-floating anger in that union hall often as I travelled the country over the last eight years, reporting for a book about Koch Industries. The anger seemed to infect every corner of American economic life. We are supposedly living in the best economy the United States has seen in modern memory, with a decade of solid growth behind us and the unemployment rate at its lowest level since the 1960s. Why, then, does everything feel so wrong? In April, a Washington-Post/ABC Poll found that 60% of political independents feel that America’s economic system is essentially rigged against them, to the advantage to those already in power. Roughly 33% of Republicans feel that way; 80% of Democrats feel the same.
What reporting the Koch story taught me is that these voters are right— the economy truly is rigged against them. But it isn’t rigged in the way most people seem to think. There isn’t some cabal of conservative or liberal politicians who are controlling the system for the benefit of one side or the other. The economy is rigged because the American political system is dysfunctional and paralyzed—with no consensus on what the government ought to do when it comes to the economy. As a result, we live under a system that’s broken, propelled forward by inertia alone. In this environment, there is only one clear winner: the big, entrenched players who can master the dysfunction and profit from it. In America, that’s the largest of the large corporations. Roughly a century after the biggest ones were broken up or more tightly regulated, they are back, stronger than ever.
I saw this reality clearly when I went to Wichita, Kansas to visit Charles Koch, the CEO of Koch Industries, a company with annual revenue larger than that of Facebook, Goldman Sachs and U.S. Steel combined. Charles Koch isn’t just the CEO of America’s biggest private company. He also inhabits one extreme end of the political debate about our nation’s economy. A close examination of his writing and speeches over the last 40 years reveals the thinking of someone who believes that government programs, no matter how well-intended, almost always do more harm than good. In this view, most government regulations simply distort the market and create big costs down the road. Taxing the wealthy only shifts money from productive uses to mostly wasteful programs. Charles Koch has been on a mission, for at least 40 years, to reshape the American political system into one where government intervention into markets does not exist.
September 27, 2019 at 12:07 AM #164413SorechasmParticipant
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The Koch Brothers don’t deserve the rights to extract blood from the hardworking American people. These ‘Moral’ ideological idiots need to pay dearly for that right. Instead they claim the higher ground on a disgusting principal that slaveholders used: They believe they must abuse their subjects or else their subjects will get lazy.
“When Steve Hammond, the union boss, tried to bargain with Koch, he found himself fighting over ideology, not benefits. In one case, the Koch negotiators wanted to strip down workers’ health care benefits, requiring employees to pay more money out of pocket for their benefits. The Koch team framed their request not as a way to make more money for Koch, but to create a system that better reflected the ideals of Market-Based Management. “It’s a matter of principle,” recalled union negotiator Gary Bucknum. “The principle is that an employee should be paying something toward their healthcare, or otherwise they’ll abuse their health care.”
Making the 1% pay their fair share is a matter of moral principal because the 1% clearly do not deserve the benefits of the Democratic principals that this country was founded upon. Democratic principals that only allow this country to thrive when enforced.
“Go and tell Alexander that God the Supreme King is never the Author of insolent wrong, but is the Creator of light, of peace, of life, of water, of the body of man and of souls;...what Alexander offers and the gifts he promises are things to me utterly useless;..." Dandamis, a great sannyasi of Taxila.Excerpt From: Yogananda, Paramahansa. “Autobiography of a Yogi.”
September 27, 2019 at 2:17 AM #164520Cold Mountain TrailParticipant
- Total Posts: 8,492
So ironic the Kochs are where they are, serving up the ideology they do, when the family got rich by serving the commies and the fascists.
No moral compass, no love of country at all.
September 27, 2019 at 3:45 AM #164587snotParticipant
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The author doesn’t seem to fully grasp the structural problems.
Destruction is easy; creation is hard, but more interesting.
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