Koch and Sanders Agree

Charles Koch: This is the one issue where Bernie Sanders is right.

The senator is upset with a political and economic system that is often rigged to help the privileged few at the expense of everyone else, particularly the least advantaged. He believes that we have a two-tiered society that increasingly dooms millions of our fellow citizens to lives of poverty and hopelessness. He thinks many corporations seek and benefit from corporate welfare while ordinary citizens are denied opportunities and a level playing field.

I agree with him.

Consider the regulations, handouts, mandates, subsidies and other forms of largesse our elected officials dole out to the wealthy and well-connected. The tax code alone contains $1.5 trillion in exemptions and special-interest carve-outs. Anti-competitive regulations cost businesses an additional $1.9 trillion every year. Perversely, this regulatory burden falls hardest on small companies, innovators and the poor, while benefitting many large companies like ours. This unfairly benefits established firms and penalizes new entrants, contributing to a two-tiered society.

Whenever we allow government to pick winners and losers, we impede progress and move further away from a society of mutual benefit. This pits individuals and groups against each other and corrupts the business community, which inevitably becomes less focused on creating value for customers. That’s why Koch Industries opposes all forms of corporate welfare

The issue is currently at debate in Nevada after the PUC decided that the subsidies for household solar systems should stop. For Koch, this is a step in the right direction but for the Sanders crowd this is likely a step backward. Those on the left like to rail against corporations whose profits always seem to depend upon screwing their customers. When it comes to corporations in certain areas that are in ideological sync with them, though, using taxpayer money to screw customers is a good thing.

One of the rationalizations often used to cover over this dissonance is to confuse subsidy with tax breaks. The issue here is whether to allow certain costs to reduce taxable income or to pay money in one form or another to help defray the capital costs of a plant. 

Nevada also has its “who you know” examples in the tax breaks companies like Tesla and Amazon have been able to obtain to bring business into the state. The small guys without connections are seeing ever more taxes and fees because they don’t have the privileges and contacts that the big corporations do. 

So Charles Koch and Bernie Sanders do have some common ground. The problem is that one doesn’t have to travel far off that ground to find who has exceptions and who has consistent values.

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