MSNBC’S “LAUGH IN” WITH THE KOCH BROTHERS by Matthew Temme
On November 3rd, MSNBC’S “Morning Joe” duo Joe Scarbourgh and Mika Brzezinski had a nice chat with the reclusive billionaires Charles and David Koch. The Kochs, who prefer to remain behind the scenes in their extensive funding of libertarian causes, came out of hiding for Mika & Joe in what was billed as “a rare interview.” Brzezinski has said that she worked two years to land the sit-down with the brothers at Charles’s Wichita home. Expectations, therefore, were running quite high.
Our hopes were dashed, however, when the resulting taped interview turned out to be a dud. Shown in three parts, the “puff-ball” exchange between the billionaire climate-change deniers and the millionaire TV personalities was especially exasperating because we “sucker” viewers were required to watch the entire three hours of the 6-9 A.M. show (including all of its commercials) if we wanted to check out the three installments of 5-8 minutes each. At the beginning of the first installment, broadcast at about 6:30 A.M. ET, in which Charles mostly griped about how disappointed he was with the current field of Republican presidential candidates, Mika promised that in the next hour’s episode they would get into Charles Koch’s new book Good Profits “in great detail.”
Nothing could have been further from the truth. First of all, it was obvious, even after all the build-up, that neither Joe nor Mika had bothered to read Koch’s book about his business philosophy. Joe clearly stated that he had read the book, and after asking a superficial question from chapter one about Charles’s work ethic when he was a teenager, Joe said that he and co-host Brzezinski “had heard” that Koch had been kicked out of a military academy because of drinking. In the book, the under-age drinking was recounted just after the work ethic issue. Why did Scarborough not simply say he had “read” about the drinking instead of giving the impression that someone had briefed him about the contents of Koch’s book?
Brzezinski, who spent a good deal of the interview with her head down, writing on a sheet of paper, seemed surprised when Scarborough, who was chiefly impressed by the autobiographical tidbits in chapter one of Good Profits, mentioned that Charles had gone to eight schools before graduating from high school. Brzezinski seemed to be hearing about the eight schools for the first time.
Having read Good Profits myself, I expected the “Morning Joe” team to ask Mr. Koch informed questions about his business philosophy—the real subject of the book—which he calls MBM (Market Based Management). For example, I would have liked to hear why Koch thought that legendary management guru W. Edwards Deming’s management system was “too limited to cover all requirements for business success” (in the introduction to Good Profits). I would also have liked to hear more about Koch’s practical application of Friedrich Hayek’s libertarian philosophy to Koch Industries. Koch’s general view of economics faithfully adheres to the principles of “the Austrian School of economics” as laid out by Joseph Schumpeter, Ludwig von Mises, and Hayek. I would have liked to hear what Koch thought of John Maynard Keynes’ economic principles, which represent the antithesis of the Austrian School. Many feel that it was Keynes who helped bring us out of the Great Depression. Some even said that he had “saved capitalism from itself.”Does Koch feel that the Austrians would have pulled us out of the recent economic slump faster than the Keynesian measures? If so, how?
Instead, Since it was obvious that she had not read the book, Brzezinski’s only question about the book was a predictable: “What do you mean by ‘good profits’?” Here is Charles Koch’s answer: “Well, Good Profit, I define just that way, is profit—a good profit is profit that becomes [sic} from contributing to society, from helping other people improve their lives. And for a business, this means producing products and services that your customers value more than the alternatives while more efficiently using resources and being among the safest and environmentally protective producer. And so when you do those, you create good profit. And so this was my philosophy I developed early on.”
The real howler in this statement is the claim that koch Industries has long followed a policy (“developed early on”) of being “among the safest and environmentally protective” companies. This is hogwash, but Mika did not challenge this outrageous lie. Read the following article from Rolling Stone that lays out in detail Koch Industries’ long history of environmental crimes.
Many people were angered by the superficiality of the “Morning Joe” interview. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), a frequent guest on the program, complained that “these guys have spent millions of dollars behind a curtain against a lot of candidates. I guess I was just saying that finally these guys are being interviewed, and we all have this probably unrealistic expectation that they would be asked some questions about what they’ve been up to.”
The real indignation, however, should not have been over Charles Koch’s funding of commercials against Democrats; it should have been over his bold-faced lie about Koch Industries’ environmental record. But this was not going to happen on “Morning Joe” which has been a vocal supporter of the environmentally hostile Keystone Pipeline. Even Brzezinski and frequent guest McCaskill, so-called liberals, were on board for transporting the filthy Alberta tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico via Keystone, and then shipping their carbon-intensive petcoke byproduct to China’s booming power plants.
Environmentalism has been getting short shrift on MSNBC for some time. The so-called liberal station hardly covered last fall’s huge climate march in NYC. Chuck Todd’s “Meet the Press,” NBC’S flagship news program, did not even mention the 400-thousand-strong protest which was happening on the same Sunday that MTP was on the air. The only MSNBC presenter who gave appropriate coverage to the march was Ed Schultz, and he was fired 10 months after the world-wide event.
In response to wide-spread criticism about the interview, The “Morning Joe”moderators claim that they “pushed” the Kochs. Brzezinski did ask Charles how he could claim he was against crony capitalism if he was still deploying an extensive army of lobbyists in Washington. Koch’s answer was that ultimately they had failed to exert any influence, but Brzezinski had no follow-up question to this obvious distortion. One egregious example: the Kochs have coerced hundreds of politicians to refuse to vote for any pro-environment funding unless it is accompanied by equivalent tax cuts. Does the star-struck Brzezinski even know about this pledge? http://investigativereportingworkshop.org/investigations/the_koch_club/story/Koch_climate_pledge_strategy/
Scarborough, for his part, asked the sixth richest man in the world what he thought was the cause of “income inequality.” Koch replied that inequality was caused by three things: 1) the criminal justice system, 2) poverty-inducing regulations, 3) an educational system that isn’t providing the disadvantaged with values and skills required for success. Numbers 1 & 3 certainly contribute to inequality, but they are only part of the story. Reason number 2, however, is poppycock! Koch slipped this one in, and Scarborough just ignored it. Koch’s libertarian slander against economic and environmental regulations did not merit any comment from the millionaire T.V. stars!
I am reminded of the “Morning Joe” episode of March 22, 2014 when Thomas Picketty’s book about income inequality, Capitalism in the 21st Century, was discussed. Despite some snide remarks by Scarborough at the beginning of the episode, by the time they got to the commercial break, the talkative host was railing against the ridiculously low tax rates that billionaires like Warren Buffet (the world’s third richest man) were paying, as opposed to the rates being paid by “poor” NYC millionaires—or by “poor” Connecticut millionaires like Joe Scarborough. Why didn’t Scarborough question Charles Koch about the tricks (like “carried interest”) that the super rich use to reduce their taxes?
During the third segment, Scarborough asked David Koch: “It’s hard to find people in New York, liberals, we were talking about that before, liberals or conservatives alike, who haven’t been touched by your graciousness, whether it’s towards the arts or cancer research. Do you think you got that instinct from your mom?”
Although I worked in NYC for several years, I was only “touched” by the Koch brothers when I started to look into the activities of American lawbreakers such as “insider trader” Ivan Boesky and “Iran-contra” conspirator Ollie North, who had surprisingly set up bases of operation in Fribourg, Switzerland, a town where I had lived for almost 20 years. Among other Americans with companies in Fribourg were Charles and David Koch. When I first unearthed their presence in the little Catholic city, the Kochs were not the household names that they have since become. Eventually, I would discover that Koch Industries, after setting up three subsidiaries in Fribourg in the early 1970’s (Koch Oil Marketing SA, Koch Oil SA, and Saracen Energy SA) would later expand its operations to Switzerland’s other secrecy jurisdictions, i.e. Geneva, Lugano, Zug, and Zurich. These companies were primarily holding companies with no employees, operating out of fiduciary offices. One of these offices was run by an acquaintance of mine, and I am sure that he was “touched” by the Kochs’ “graciousness.” It is interesting to note that a Koch Industries’ subsidiary in Zurich, Arteva Sarl., a branch of another Koch company established in Luxembourg , was used to reduce their European tax bill by millions of dollars. Koch Industries was one of the big American multinationals cited in last year’s “Luxleaks” scandal. This huge scandal got no coverage in the U.S. media.
The Koch’s Zurich company was organized much like the way Amancio Ortega (the 2nd richest man in the world) has organized his six Fribourg companies. Who would have guessed that the sleepy little Catholic city of Fribourg would end up harboring so many of the world’s top-ranked billionaires! See my blog entry for Dec. 5, 2013: the billionaires section in “key to affiliations.” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-02-26/ortega-s-zara-fashions-tax-avoidance-by-shifting-profits-to-alps
Scarborough certainly has a point about the Kochs being ubiquitous. The Koch brothers’ “Youth Entrepreneurs” high-school program aims to provide American students with “business and entrepreneurial education and experiences that help them prosper and become contributing members of society.” But as the article in the link below explains: “the underlying goal of the program, however, is to impart Koch’s radical free-market ideology to teenagers. In the last school year , the class reached more than 1000 students across Kansas and Missouri.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/16/koch-brothers-education_n_5587577.html
From 2005-2013, Koch foundations spent over $68 million on 308 colleges and universities to promote their libertarian “Austrian Economics” agenda. The two universities that my children attended received Koch money. Even Scarborough’s beloved University of Alabama received Koch money. http://polluterwatch.org/charles-koch-university-funding-database
Another college which has received Koch money is the College of Charleston in South Carolina. I have attended Cofc as a senior citizen. It is a delightful liberal arts college!
Anyone who knows Charleston SC is aware of the disastrous flooding that periodically engulfs the peninsular city . In fact, the current campaign for Charleston’s new mayor, after Joe Riley’s long reign of 40 years, has included a lively discussion of this important issue. It might be important to know, therefore, that Charles and David Koch are the biggest funders of “climate-change denial” in the world to the tune of tens of millions of dollars! So students enrolled in the programs they have organized at Cofc might become radicalized by Koch-style anthropogenic climate change denial and do nothing about the flooding that plagues Charleston. This flooding will certainly worsen in the years to come if climate change is not vigorously addressed. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/climate-deniers/koch-industries/
Associating with the Kochs means that people risk being infected by their anti-social climate-change denial. This may apply to the otherwise left-leaning Mika Brzezinski. And this is why I have launched a petition against the Kochs in Fribourg, which is building an ambitious “carbon-free” industrial park “dangerously” close to several business concerns of the climate-change-denying Koch brothers. For example, the Koch’s climate-change denying brother Bill, known as the “petcoke king,” has three companies in an office that is located just behind the building with the blue balconies to the left of the blueFactory complex in the picture below. The symbolism of this juxtaposition is very disconcerting! https://www.change.org/p/directors-of-bluefactory-fribourg-must-expel-the-koch-brothers