May 2017        

The Koch Brothers and Donald Trump

Dan Taraghan

In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), Karl Marx stated: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur as it were twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”
     Hitler was the tragedy. Trump is the farce.
     Social democrats and many on the left, and even the Koch Brothers on the far right, regard Trump as the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. Charles Koch described Trump’s attempt to ban immigrants from particular Muslim countries as similar to the policies of Adolf Hitler. However, the Koch Brothers later qualified this early assessment when they realised how much influence they might have in the Trump government.
     If anything, Trump is a throwback to an old-style isolationist. The United States is an imperial power that has lost its dominance and the ability to engage in gunboat diplomacy without suffering any consequences.
     It is true that Trump groomed the electorate to accept racism and bigotry against Hispanics, non-whites, and Muslims. He converted the election into a series of sound-bites like a television show, and, despite failing to win an overall majority, because of the electoral system in the United States, he became president anyway.
     The American courts and politicians have shown resilience in resisting Trump. More than forty unions backed Clinton, with only three endorsing Trump. Although 46 per cent of union households voted for Trump, union leaders are already reminding members of their role in protecting basic freedoms. Richard Trumka, president of the national federation, the AFL-CIO, sent a clear warning to Trump that those now feeling vulnerable to attack because of their colour, sexuality or religion were not alone and that the labour movement would “protect the freedoms for all who live and work here.”
     Trump lacks credibility, with spokespersons like “Spoofer” Spicer and Steve Bannon of Breitbart News, purveyors of fake news. The proposed Trump Wall has little support among farmers in need of Hispanic labourers. The attempt to ban Muslims floundered, and his attempt to get rid of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” has been defeated.
     Even the repeal of environmental laws will have little impact. It will not produce the jobs promised, as the United States is already switching to non-fossil sources of energy. Trump’s proposals for tax reform will, if anything, drive up the costs of imports and do nothing for jobs.
     The media have forced the resignation of some of his senior appointments. Even though Trump signed the death cert of the TPP trade negotiations, Richard Trumka told USA Today that it was workers and their progressive allies who killed it. By mobilising and organising, workers won the debate in Congress and showed that TPP did nothing to protect workers’ rights. In effect, Trump is showing himself to be a farce.
     Trump is caught between his opponents on the left, who are prepared to challenge him in the courts and on the streets, and the hard right, which regards him as too socialistic. Trump’s government contains such senior members as Mike Pence, who is connected to the Koch Brothers. Paul Ryan, leader of the House of Representatives, is another Koch protégé.
     Charles and David Koch have a combined net worth of $96.6 billion. Both have been behind such lobbying groups as Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity. The latter group helped organise and finance the Tea Party movement.
     The Kochs did not outwardly support Trump, but many of their donors and supporters are on the Trump team. The brothers support the repeal of environmental laws, the abolition of Obamacare, the repeal of campaign funding limits (achieved), deregulation of the medical insurance industry, and privatisation of the postal service and public roads. They oppose abortion services. They oppose personal and corporate taxes, and have availed of Luxembourg’s tax avoidance schemes.
     In brief, David Koch told the Wichita Eagle that since they were teenagers they were worried that the government would evolve into “a very controlling socialistic type of government.”
     Over the years they have poured millions into the Republican Party. It is widely reported that the Kochs sabotaged Trump’s attempt to get rid of Obamacare not on the grounds that they did not support the idea but because Trump was going to retain some parts of the measures. His attempt to repeal the act and replace it with the American Health Care Act was defeated by a lack of support from Republicans. The Koch Brothers promised Republicans financial support in next year’s elections if they voted against it. Paul Ryan pulled the bill.
     The Kochs and their supporters are free-market anarchists, opposed to trade unions and any attempts by the working class to improve society. A look at the documentary “Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream” gives a flavour of what they really believe.

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