Tea Party and the Right

Charles Koch Lashes Out at Warren Buffett, Absurdly Claims He Contributes More to Society Than Government

Mr. Koch seems preferential to the conservative/libertarian theory that he, rather than government, should decide which members of society are worth saving.

It seems billionaire Charles Koch is peeved with billionaire Warren Buffett's proposition that the rich really ought to be paying more taxes. In response, he apparently fired off a late-Friday-afternoon statement to National Review (well, if you can call two sentences a "statement"):

"Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending. I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington."

Wow, there's just so much to parse there! Okay, not really, but let's do it anyway.

"Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good"

Like what? Name something, Mr. Koch.

What, do you mean Medicare? Social Security? Defense? Food safety? Volcano monitoring? Throw us a bone here, and tell us what part of government you think should be eliminated. I realize it would require you to have added a whole additional sentence to your statement, or at least another phrase or two, but I think most of us would be quite interested in what parts of government you deem to do "more harm than good."

"this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending."

If by "particularly true" you mean "not true at all," I suppose. The last several years have not seen a "massive uncontrolled increase in government spending" compared to past administrations—and whatever blip there has been because of the stimulus, you as businessman and investor should be down on your well-tailored knees thanking your lucky, platinum-plated stars, considering the alternatives.) Really, for a supposed captain of industry who spends all his time deciding how entire governments should or shouldn't work, then allocating ridiculous quantities of money in attempts to bring about those views, it seems fairly shocking that you wouldn't know the simple history of the things you are railing against. (Apparently, money does not imply knowledge, which itself fairly shatters the worldview the wealthy have of themselves, though we do not expect any of them will notice.)

It would have been grand, Mr. Koch, if you were as concerned about government spending in the last administration, when something could have been done about it, but at least you are not invoking the scary Deficit Monster, which stayed quiet during the entire Bush era only to pop back up in January of 2009. No, it's just a straight-up lie of the simpler sort, because when you are a billionaire, you apparently get to make things up and pay people to pretend they are true.

"I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington."

Well, I will grant that "It's my money and I'll spend it how I want" is certainly an original argument, coming from ultra-wealthy elites. Wait, did I say "original"? I meant "painfully, excruciatingly overdone." What Buffett and others have proposed is the rather shocking notion that people like you, Mr. Koch, should have to pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as the people who drive your coddled asses around all day; again, it would be wonderful if you would spend a spare few words refuting that with any argument other than the one-sentence billionaire equivalent of "get off my lawn, you damn kids."

This is a particularly fascinating mini-statement, because while the duty of government is, at heart, "societal well-being", Mr. Koch seems preferential to the conservative/libertarian theory that he, rather than government, should decide which members of society are worth saving, and which should go homeless, or hungry or sick. To summarize his view in the words of a better philosopher, Crow T. Robot: "I want to decide who lives and who dies." Rather than give money to government to feed poor children, Mr. Koch will feed them when (or if) he gets around to it.

How wonderfully Dickensian. No, seriously: you could not ask for a better example of Victorian self-indulgent moralism, or a better summation of the eternal cry of the fantastically well-off. It is not the role of government to feed these pitiful slobs, or help them find work, or protect them if they get ill. It is up to my own philanthropy, and I shall decide whom to save, and how, and when, or whether to save none at all, and fuck you all very much if you think otherwise.

Before those nasty social programs instituted by the government, why were people homeless, sick or hungry in such large numbers? We have all seen the photos and read the statistics, but surely, the wealthy families of those past eras simply financed private efforts to care for all those poor, just as Koch himself has done (no doubt putting the majority of his time and efforts into philanthropic efforts, and not merely self-interested political ones). Before government rudely intervened in decades past with rules banning the indentured servitude of the working class, in railroads and mills and mines of our nation, surely the wealthy captains of industry treated those workers fairly, and with utmost regard for their safety, just as Mr. Koch does (no doubt himself a champion of workers' rights, and not a man devoted to stripping those rights, crippling worker unions, and repealing regulations in an obsessive, all-encompassing effort to greedily squeeze every last penny of profits for himself and his companies at the expense of workers and even entire communities).

I see now why the crabby Mr. Koch, despite his vast fortune, does not spend much time advocating for his positions in public. He apparently does a gigantically piss-poor job of it, which is why he pays others handsomely to do it instead. It is class warfare by proxy: you can't possibly expect the rich to fight their battlesthemselves, can you? That would be gauche.

I, however, would love if we could hear more from Koch. Much, much more, please. Throughout history, it has always been a fine idea for the royal class to lecture the peasants on how lucky the poor have it and how thankful they should be for whatever little scraps of food and attentiveness the nobility deigns to give them: nothing has ever gone wrong with this, and so I heartily encourage Mr. Koch to do it loudly and often.