One of the Republican party's biggest donors — Charles G. Koch — hasn't committed to a presidential candidate, but wrote an op-ed about Bernie Sanders for The Washington Post that surprisingly wasn't a scathing list of all his inadequacies. The wealthy businessman, known along with his brother as the industrialist behind the huge conglomerate Koch Industries, supports free enterprise and minimal government involvement, raising millions of dollars for the Republican party and libertarian groups. Ironically though, Koch agrees with Sanders that American society is rigged to benefit the rich.
The older Koch brother, worth more than $40 billion dollars, was ranked as the 29th most powerful person in the world by Forbes in 2015. His company, the second largest in the nation, is involved in the extraction and manufacturing of most materials, from petroleum to paper. So, it's interesting that this influential billionaire publicly recognized how the current political and economic system helps build up the upper class he belongs to and gives the poor few opportunities for success.
Writing about Sanders, Koch said in his op-ed published Thursday: "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."
Koch blamed both political parties for supporting policies that pick winners and losers, while also acknowledging that businesses (not including his) lobby for such policies and perpetuate the problem. He wrote:
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.
It's not often that a powerful billionaire bashes the very system that helped create his industrial empire, or points out that a presidential candidate from the opposing party is on to something.
Formerly identifying as a libertarian, Koch isn't a fan of corporate welfare for the same reasons he doesn't support regular welfare: It isn't the government's place to monetarily help businesses or citizens. So, he doesn't see eye to eye with Sanders on how to fix the problems of poverty and lack of opportunities they both recognize. "I applaud the senator for giving a voice to many Americans struggling to get ahead in a system too often stacked in favor of the haves, but I disagree with his desire to expand the federal government’s control over people’s lives," he wrote. "This is what built so many barriers to opportunity in the first place."
Realizing that his mostly positive article about Sanders would lead many people to wonder if he's feeling the Bern, he answered the question himself, saying, "Hardly." However, he has yet to back a Republican candidate in the 2016 election, and his op-ed explained that he won't do so until someone whose beliefs will lead to "peace, civility and well-being rather than conflict, contempt and division" emerges. Koch made it clear that he isn't on team Sanders, but drawing attention to his agreement with the Vermont senator on social and economic inequality shows his frustration with his own party.