One thing I’ve come to value in the last couple of years is the altruism and keen economic insights of the fourth-richest man in America: Charles Koch.
Even though Koch was raised rich and has now amassed a personal fortune of about $34 billion, he recently gave us a deeper sense of his true worth, measured not in dollars, but in values.
“We want to do a better job of raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country,” he declared. Excellent thought — FDR couldn’t have put it better! Noting that a big problem for the poor is that the Powers That Be “keep throwing obstacles in their way,” Koch cut to the chase, saying, “We’ve got to clear those out.”
Yes, Charlie, I’m with you! Clear out such barriers as the offshoring of middle-class jobs, union busting, poorly funded schools and the lack of affordable health care, housing and child care.
But, alas, that’s not at all what Koch had in mind as obstacles to be cleared out. Rather, he proposes to “help” poor people by eliminating — ready? — “the minimum wage.” Why? Because, explains this clueless son-of-the-rich, having a wage floor “reduces the mobility of labor.”
In case you don’t dwell in the plutocratic, narcissistic, Ayn Randian fantasyland where the Kochs hang out, “labor mobility” is right-wing psychobabble for social Darwinism. Remove all remnants of America’s economic safety net, they coldly theorize (while wallowing in their nests of luxury), and the poor will be “freed” to become billionaires.
As Koch puts it, if the disadvantaged had no protections in the workplace and no government programs to ameliorate their poverty, they would then have to scramble just to live, thus freeing them from reliance on society’s helping hand. Freeing them to do what? Well, Koch says, they could then “start a business … drive a taxicab … become a hairdresser.”
What a visionary he is! Where you and I might see people trapped in debilitating poverty, Koch sees a Brave New World of billionaire hairdressers!
But he’s not the only 1-percenter having utopian visions for hard-hit Americans. For example, I can’t begin to tell you how grateful America’s homeless people are going to be once they hear about Andy Kessler, who has been thinking long and hard about their plight, selflessly seeking ways to eradicate intractable poverty.
Kessler is a former hedge-fund whiz, which means he was in the business of making … well, money. Beaucoup bundles of it. But having seen his 16-year-old son volunteer at a homeless center, he was motivated to develop a plan to solve homelessness — and here it is: Stop dishing out soup to those people, and shut down all those damn shelters!
The homeless problem, he recently wrote in an op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal, stems from “all this volunteering and charitable giving” by do-gooders like his son. Homeless folks ought to be working, he lectured, but they’re not, “because someone is feeding, clothing and, in effect, bathing them.”
Golly, Andy, I recall that Jesus said something about our Godly duty to feed and clothe the needy — and even to wash the feet of the poor.
But apparently, Jesus just didn’t grasp the essence of true morality. “Blessed are the rich!” is Kessler’s spiritual mantra. “Where does money come from … to help the unfortunate?” he asked. And yea, I say unto thee, the Holy Hedge-Funder answered his own deep question: It comes from “someone (who) worked productively and created wealth.”
Thus, he sagely concluded, the answer to poverty, to truly helping the poor, is not to pamper the takers, but to provide more tax breaks for the makers of wealth (like him) — the ones who produce “good old-fashioned economic growth.”
Wow, what a role model this guy is for America’s youth — including that misguided boy of his! Wouldn’t you like to buy Kessler and Koch for what they’re worth … and sell them for what they think they’re worth? That would fund a whole lot of homeless programs.
— 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 to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JimHightower, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.