Thursday, April 3, 2014

Charles Koch is a man of virtue

There's no other way to describe it. In a Wall Street Journal essay about his continued promotion of a free society, Koch once again wrote about his opposition to corporate welfare and cronyism.

As a rich businessman, Koch could easily make more money by playing "the game" and getting favors from Washington. It's his belief in fairness and the free market that prevents him from doing so, and his very un-greedy stance on corporate welfare is most definitely a virtue.

Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs—even when we benefit from them. I believe that cronyism is nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful, and should be abolished.

His numerous left-wing critics are eager to disprove this notion, drafting numerous articles accusing Koch of being one of the biggest pigs at the federal trough. Here's a prime example from last month, with the headline Koch Brothers Takes $88 Million in Corporate Welfare.

The article is simply a link to a left-wing groups report on total corporate welfare in America. The actual report never mentions Koch industries or any of its subsidiaries because they ranked too low to list. Koch Industries didn't even make the top 100. One has to go through their raw data to find the Koch figures, which took less than half of the number 100 cutoff corporation, Bank of America, which had $180 million.

The report looked at corporate handouts, mostly in the form of tax breaks and enterprise zones, between 1990 and 2014. During that period Koch subsidiaries took a total of $88 million. That's $88 million over a period of 24 years, for a company with current annual revenue of $115 billion.

Compare that to the ($182 billion in revenue in 2013) Berkshire Hathaway firm owned and operated by left wing darling George Soros, that was ranked number 15 in the nation in the same report and took in over a billion in corporate welfare.

Let's make that comparison simple to read. Koch had $88 million, and Soros had $1,064 million.

Now granted, that $88 million is not zero, and I'm trying to make the claim that Charles Koch is a man of virtue. Don't these 139 subsidies mean he's a little bit dirty here?

Well yes and no. While I doubt Koch had much decision making over the $925 workforce training reimbursement accepted by Georgia-Pacific in Arkansas, surely the $10 million tax credit to Flint Hills Resources in Iowa should have been on his radar.

Letting that happen is a grave error Charles Koch should have fixed, but I'm not nominating him for sainthood. I'm saying that he has shown great restraint in resisting easy stolen money from the government.

As Timothy P. Carney wrote about Koch's decision to pay him to be a speaker against corporate welfare and bailouts:

If the Kochs were really just greedy billionaires funding front groups to boost their profits, their nonprofits would probably support subsidies and protective regulations. And if the Kochs' movement really is "pro-corporate," somebody made a big mistake in picking me to speak.

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