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Sierra Daily

Mar 01, 2011

A Beautiful Friendship

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This morning Charles Koch, of the pollutocrat Koch Brothers, took to the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to issue an eloquent plea for a halt to the lavish government subsidies that have helped make him and his brother David the 24th richest people in the world. After the boilerplate calls for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, Koch takes aim at an unusual target (for the WSJ anyway): "crony capitalism":

Too many businesses have successfully lobbied for special favors and treatment by seeking mandates for their products, subsidies (in the form of cash payments from the government), and regulations or tariffs to keep more efficient competitors at bay. Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.

Bracing stuff, especially from someone whose supping from the public teat has been so thoroughly (and amusingly) documented. Koch is alive to the whiff of hypocrisy, however. Even though he insists that "[s]ubsidizing inefficient jobs is costly, wastes resources, and weakens our economy,"

Because every other company in a given industry is accepting market-distorting programs, Koch companies have had little option but to do so as well, simply to remain competitive and help sustain our 50,000 U.S.-based jobs. However, even when such policies benefit us, we only support the policies that enhance true economic freedom. For example, because of government mandates, our refining business is essentially obligated to be in the ethanol business. We believe that ethanol—and every other product in the marketplace—should be required to compete on its own merits, without mandates, subsidies or protective tariffs.

Fair enough! Let's take Koch at his word and enhance true economic freedom by joining President Obama in his call to do away with the $4 billion a year we give in subsidies and tax breaks to the oil industry. While we're at it, we can end the $6 billion a year we give to subsidize corn ethanol. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

--Paul Rauber

UPDATE! Apparently House Republicans didn't get around to reading their Journal this morning, because this afternoon they voted unanimously not to cut oil industry subsidies.

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