Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Koch Brothers Exposed": Greenwald's indictment of a particular family in the top one percent

The “Koch Brothers Exposed”, directed by Robert Greenwald (produced by  Brave New America and viewable online on Netflix) is a somewhat hysterical documentary that appears to blame one family for manipulating the entire political system to keep the rich  ("The One Percent") not only in their palaces but in control of ordinary people.

The Koch family founded Koch Industries, a large industry conglomerate.  When I lived in Minneapolis, I often passed the Koch-owned Pine Bend Refinery, about 17 miles south of downtown St. Paul on Highway 52.  It’s the largest refinery in any state that does not have its own oil reserves.

The film, of course, focuses on enormous lobbying efforts supposedly made by the Koch family against what are often seen as progressive initiatives by mainstream political science. 

The family is said to have formed the organization "Americans for Prosperity", link (starts Shockwave) here

One speaker says,  “They don’t want to see government money spent on people whom they believe are beneath being worthy of being taken care of.” And later, someone says “they have a strong ‘libertarian agenda’”.

The film goes on to cover the lobbying for privatization of Social Security (which I think should be done, but in a very carefully managed and graduated fashion), and even quotes David Boaz of the Cato Institute on the matter (Boaz authored “Libertarianism: A Primer” and “The Libertarian Reader” for the Free Press in the 1990s.)  Then it turns to the issue of Scott Walker’s “attack” on public employee unions in Wisconsin.  There’s a viral joke on Twitter now, about whether Gov. Walker (R-WI) honors Labor Day.

The most valuable sequence in the film concerns the water pollution near Crossett, AR, resulting in a lot of illness in poor people, from the unregulated discharges of a Georgia Pacific plant.  The film could have gone into other areas, like coal and mountaintop removal (and water table damage) if Koch has any connection to these. But in a “libertarian world” functioning properly, companies should be held accountable for environmental damage that they cause.  Of course, given the best information on carbon emissions and climate change, this could be very difficult to do without “government” and regulation.

The film also accuses the Koch family of supporting efforts to reverse school desegregation in parts of North Carolina.

The film seems to take the position that the poor are helped only by organized government programs and unions.  A much tougher challenge is to question the moral limits of individualism and to ask, when is an individual personally his brother’s keeper even though he didn’t “choose” anything or “contract” anything specific to incur the responsibility.  This has a lot to do with “social capital”.

The link for the film is here

The film can be rented on YouTube for $3.99.  

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