Monday, November 30 , 2015, 1:05 pm | Fair 64º

Jim Hightower: The Koch Brothers, Privatization and the Road to Hell

The megalomaniacal megabillionaires are literally using their money to buy public policy

By Jim Hightower |

Billionaires are different from you and me, for obvious reasons, including the fact that they buy much pricier baubles than we do.

A sleek car costing $100,000? Why, for them, that’s just an easy impulse purchase. A few million bucks for a Matisse original? Go ahead — it’ll liven up the hallway. How about throwing a fat wad of cash at a university to get an academic chair named for you? Sure, it’s all part of the fun of living in BillionaireLand.

Then there is the top crust of the upper-crust — such megalomaniacal megabillionaires as the Koch brothers. Using money from their industrial conglomerate, their foundation and their personal fortunes, these two far-out, laissez-faire extremists are literally buying public policy. Their purchases of everything from politicians to the Tea Party help them push the privatization of all things public and the elimination of pesky regulations and taxes that crimp their style.

To advance their plutocratic privatization cause, brother Charles has even gone on a shopping spree for an invaluable bauble that most of us didn’t even know was for sale: academic freedom. And it’s surprisingly cheap!

For only $1.5 million, Koch bought a big chunk of the Economics Department of Florida State University a couple of years ago. His donation gives him control of a new “academic” program at this public institution to indoctrinate students in his self-serving political theories.

The billionaire gets to screen all applicants, veto any he deems insufficiently ideological and sign off on all new hires. Also, the department head must submit yearly reports to Koch about the faculty’s speeches, publications and classes, and he evaluates the faculty based on “objectives” that he sets.

Charles has made similar purchases of academic freedom at two other state universities, Clemson and West Virginia. Also, in a May 20 piece at, investigative researcher Lee Fang reveals that Koch has paid $419,000 to buy into Brown University’s “political theory project,” $3.6 million to establish Troy University’s “center for political economy” and $700,000 for a piece of Utah State’s Huntsman School of Business, which now has the “Charles G. Koch Professor of Political Economy.”

Imagine the screams of outrage we’d hear from the Kochs if a labor union were doing this.

A recent article in The Onion, the satirical newsweekly, printed a downsize-big-government spoof that Charles and David would love to turn into reality. The parody disclosed that President Barack Obama had come up with a sure-fire plan to balance the federal budget: Rob Fort Knox! “I’ve got the blueprints,” Obama is quoted as saying, “and I think I found a way out through a drainage pipe.”

Unfortunately, with today’s political climate dominated by howling winds from the far-right fringe, there’s no longer any room in American culture for satire. Sure enough, some laissez-faire extremists at such Koch-funded corporate fronts as the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation are presently howling for the government to sell all of America’s gold stored in Fort Knox. Noting that we have billions of dollars worth of bullion in the vaults, a fellow from Heritage made this keen observation: “It’s just sort of sitting there.”

Uh, yeah, professor. Like Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, the Lincoln Memorial and other national assets — being there is the point.

Yet these ivory tower ideologues are using the current brouhaha over the budget deficit as an opening to push their loopiest fantasies of selling off all of America’s public properties, facilities, systems and treasures to create a no-government, plutocratic paradise. Just spread our public goods out on tables, like a flea market from hell, and invite the global rich to buy it all.

For example, a fellow from another Koch-funded front, the American Enterprise Institute, observes that the government could raise billions of dollars to retire that pesky deficit simply by selling our interstate highway system. Americans would then have to pay tolls forever to the corporate owners, but hey, he exclaims, remember that tolls “work for the River Styx, why not the Beltway?”

What a perfect metaphor for privatization! In ancient mythology, dead souls must pay a toll to be ferried across the River Styx and enter the depths of hell.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

comments powered by Disqus

» on 05.25.11 @ 10:19 PM

George Soros

» on 05.26.11 @ 12:32 AM

Bingo sandflea!

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  This piece is so absurd it can’t be the product of intelligent design.  Oh, I’m sorry, that can’t exist in Jim’s world either.

How many programs throughout the country’s numerous institutions of higher education are bought and paid for by the extreme left wing of the progressive movement?  Hmmm?  Too many to easily count.  Oh, the irony.

Whole textbooks are manufactured by progressives that completely ignore fact, preferring fictional adaptations of history to mold the minds of children all across the country to their way of thinking.  It’s become so ridiculous that recently concerned citizen groups in Texas demanded that some sense of reality be reintroduced into the curriculum of their children.

And yet, here is Mr. Hightower, preaching from his progressive pulpit on all of those dastardly capitalists who dare to influence the political system or ensure that capitalism continues to be taught in our public school system.  Small surprise from a man who rails against our founding fathers and the Republic they created.

» on 05.26.11 @ 01:23 AM

Hightower…pitiful. The real enemies of our Republic do not live in foreign lands, they are right here.

» on 05.26.11 @ 02:06 PM

Oh, don’t forget guys this hypocrite is stinking rich himself. Made his fortune building wealth generating industry like the Koch brothers, nope. Made it building a mega software company like Gates, nope. No our good friend Jimmy the rich guy hounder made his fortune gambling in the markets he loves to hate, all the while working for government. The guy has never produced a single worthwhile thing in his life and did it all on the taxpayers dime. And he is worried about the Koch brothers frantically trying to reverse 60 years of liberal/progressive hegemony over academia? Ohhhh Jimmy come on you old nit wit. OH the wonderful hypocrisy of the left. They pillory the wealth producers while sucking off wealth skimmers and the tax payers. How do you spell parasite? ‘H-i-g-h-t-o-w-e-r’

» on 05.26.11 @ 05:53 PM

Hightower seems to think that in a pluralistic democracy like ours, there isn’t any room for the inherited wealth and generosity of lifelong John Birchers.

That isn’t true political or socio-economic diversity.

If Ayn Rand were still alive, she’d write in to protest.

Thankfully, since the Roberts Court has ruled that all the Koch Bros. industries are “people”, they have Free Speech rights to do likewise.

If the big winners from the Greenspan-Cheney-Rove-Bush era are the top 1.5%
of America’s wealthy, then why not have the Koch Bros. be their mouthpiece?

How boring and wasteful, the alternate path that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet
are proposing, to pledge one’s surplus wealth to help the long-term common
good. You’ll never see the Koch Bros. sign on to that one. Ha!

» on 05.26.11 @ 08:55 PM

Brief summary: “Academics, like ballet dancers and whores, can be had anywhere for money” - Ernst August

» on 05.27.11 @ 12:57 AM

Publius -

So true!

» on 05.27.11 @ 03:24 PM

Spoken like true elitists, elitists who never produced a worthwhile thing their whole life and live off the production of others.

» on 05.31.11 @ 03:19 PM

I love how the comments here are from the same 3 or 4 people… old men who dont work all telling the world how it should work…yes, the paradox of the modern day conservative.  Take take take but when it comes to giving up or giving they simply walk away and blame the other side. 

You men are pathetic.  You are a apart of the generation of Americans who complain that our society has no legs to stand on all the while sucking the marrow out of the bones that give us strength.

Pathetic and as history will prove, you are a part of the generation that destroyed America while pointing their fingers everywhere but at themselves.

» on 05.31.11 @ 03:54 PM

Hey someguy…mommy is calling.  In the meantime just where did I put my damn walker?

» on 05.31.11 @ 11:27 PM

AN50 – Do not assume that because someone does not agree with you that they have not worked very hard and earned everything they have.  That would be me.  I am still working very hard and I earn lots of money.  However, I do not agree with you.

I am interested in your opinion, but I was insulted by your response to my comment. 

Do you have a friend who can read your essays and give you feedback before you post them?

» on 06.01.11 @ 10:31 AM

T.G., you must forgive AN50 for his ignorant slurs . Poor fella has just never learned how to deal with opposing viewpoints. As an example, I have spent my entire working life creating products used in every day life, hard , physical products not based on reams of useless paper and phantom transfers of money . For that , I earn the wrath of the ANman with comments such as - ” living in my mothers basement” , ” wealth envy” , “drug abuser”,  and an endless run of ignorant responses. None remotely close to the truth.
  T.G. , those who cannot see the evils wrought by the likes of the Koch Bros., and yes George Soros, will probably never flex enough to consider opposing points of view.

» on 06.01.11 @ 09:25 PM

TG, you should not feel insulted. The comment was directed at Hightower who is the epitome of hypocrisy. As I stated, he made money skimming and working off the production of others. TG, this is not a bad thing in and of itself. Hell, 75% of the working population does the same. It does not imply that Hightower or you for that matter did not work hard for your money. It’s a statement about where the money you and all of us earn comes from. You can make money growing the economy by adding value or you can make money transferring value from others to your self. The Koch’s made money expanding the wealth pie, enriching themselves and all of us, where as Hightower made money transferring it from others. Do you understand the difference?

This is not about you or what you do but where the wealth you earn comes from. Petry is a marketing consultant and I am an engineering consultant. Neither one of us would survive doing this if it weren’t for people like the Koch’s, Bill Gates and many other “wealth producers” adding more wealth to the economy than they consume and opening up markets for the rest of us to suck off of. It’s not an insult but a realistic understanding of how economies work and valuing those parts that make opportunities for the rest of us. When we get that, as the European socialists do and China does then we can stop this mad race to poverty we are currently on. We now transfer half a trillion dollars of wealth offshore every year because we all want to be get rich quick skimmers and middle men and no one wants to do the really hard and dirty job of making wealth.

We lost our way TG and if we don’t get back on the right track and damned fast it really won’t matter what any of us talk about. Start today by supporting mineral and resource extraction, agriculture and most of all manufacturing, because those are the only real parts of an economy that add more value than they consume and even then, as the Europeans are now finding out, you have to produce more than you consume, period.

Willie, I am truly glad you recognize the difference between wealth producers and wealth skimmers and that you are a producer. Kudos for you on that point. The wrath you receive from me is on your idiotic ideology and you know it. Since you have never before said what you do for a living it would be hard for me to criticize you for it, huh? Cheers! Now where is that damned walker?

» on 06.02.11 @ 08:28 AM

Oh , and T.G., one other suggestion- you can save yourself a lot of time if you just skip over the 1000 word manifestos proffered by ANman , Noozhawk’s self annointed professor of economics. Simply substitute the words “trickle down” in exchange for the 1000 word diatribes and you will have saved yourself several minutes of reading dusty old failed theory.

» on 06.02.11 @ 11:33 AM

Oh , and T.G., one other suggestion- you can save yourself a lot of time if you just skip over the dementia induced ramblings proffered by GeeWillikersWally, Noozhawk’s self annointed professor of trickle up poverty economics. Simply substitute any previous posting in exchange and you will have saved yourself several minutes of reading the failed theories of he and his boy.

» on 06.03.11 @ 08:38 PM

Yep, Dan that’s right. Ole Willie like most of the feeble lefties who comment here can’t stand to argue the message just smear the messenger. That short enough for you GeeMan?

» on 06.03.11 @ 11:53 PM

A bit off topic here but I couldn’t resist. You know something AN50 I watch, read, and am embarrassed to have been born in the same country with people like Gee, and I can only put them into the same stable (though they are rank amateurs) as that shell of a man Chris Mathews.  Matthews is a mere echo of what he used to be.  He used to be fairly objective, pre-I’ll Get On My Knees While You Smoke a Cigar Mr President Monica, so that he could easily understand a valid, objective criticism like “Obama’s failed policies”. He is incapable of it today. He like our, Santa Barbara Obaministas, is way off the deep end and makes no sense most of the time…as do our local trickle up poverty advocates.  Just tune in for 5 or 10 minutes. You won’t know what country you’re in after you listen to him. I guarantee you won’t feel a tingle but you will fight the urge to vomit. 

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