Reprinted from Reader Supported News
At their recent top-secret retreat in Rancho Mirage, California, with right-wing politicians and billionaire oligarchs, Charles and David Koch pledged to spend $889 million to buy the 2016 presidential election. That's a ton of money that could be used for a number of more beneficial things that would provide legitimate good to society. But before we break down exactly how that $889 million could be used, it's critical for the average American worker to grasp how insignificant $889 million is for people like the Koch Brothers.
$889 million is more than double what the entire Republican National Committee spent in 2012. According to Forbes, the two brothers' combined net worth is around $83 billion. So while $889 million seems like a lot, it's actually just 1.07 percent of the two brothers' combined net worth. Since the average American's median net worth is $45,000, 1.07 percent of the net worth of an average household with two working parents would be $963. By 2013 standards, that's about the amount of money a family four would need to budget for a month of groceries.
Since the Kochs have $889 million to blow on buying an election, I've made a few suggestions as to how that money could be spent a little more effectively:
1. Fully Funding Louisiana's Colleges and Universities for the Next Year ($350 to $400 million)
In revenue-starved Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal has warned that colleges and universities may see a $300 million reduction in funding for fiscal year 2015. And in oil-dependent Louisiana, the consistent drop of oil prices means that the state's public higher education programs may suffer an additional $50 million to $100 million in budget cuts. Just under half of the money Charles and David Koch have pledged to buy the 2016 election could reverse those budget cuts.
2. Fully Funding the University of Wisconsin for Two Years ($300 million)
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker just proposed a 13 percent cut to the University of Wisconsin system over the next two years, which school officials have said will be a "significant challenge." Since Walker is one of the Koch Brothers' favorites (the prank call the Buffalo Beast made to Walker's office in 2011 pretending to be David Koch is priceless), I'm sure they wouldn't mind filling the budget gap for the University of Wisconsin system for the next two years.
3. Funding Arizona's Public Universities for a Year ($75 Million)
Arizona's new governor, Doug Ducey, just proposed a 10 percent cut to Arizona's three public colleges -- the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University. The $75 million cut would be distributed by slashing ASU's funding by $40 million, cutting $22 million from UA, and reducing NAU's budget by $13 million. While University administrators say they refuse to raise tuition "no matter what," these cuts may still affect class sizes, program quality, and class availability for the 142,000+ students attending those three schools. $75 million to the Koch Brothers is equivalent to the cost of an oil change for the rest of us. They should have no problem reversing these cuts.
4. Paying for Kansas' K-12 Public Education for One Year ($127.4 Million)
In the Koch Brothers' home state of Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback is proposing a $127.4 million cut to the state's public K-12 schools between this year and the next. Kansas' budget is in a particularly desperate situation as a result of Brownback's disastrous tax-cut package that mainly benefits wealthy families and big businesses. If the tax cuts continue uninterrupted, Kansas will have lost $5 billion in revenue by 2018. The tax cuts are a money drain on their own, but if the Kochs care about the quality of education for children in their home state, the least they could do is kick over $127.4 million and help keep the heat off of Brownback for a year.
These four examples are all in states with Republican legislatures and governors, and the Kochs have made a point of spending astronomical sums of money to bolster Republicans. The $889 million they've pledged to help make a Republican the next president could instead improve education for students in four different states. As an added bonus, Republicans in those states would reap political rewards for keeping their schools and universities off the chopping block. Of course, this money would likely come with strings attached, as it has with the Kochs' past educational philanthropy -- like recipients having to agree to force curriculum down students' throats teaching that rich people deserve to have all the money.
But what nobody is asking is why two men approaching 80-years-old are committing absurd amounts of money to influence political outcomes and educational curriculum when they may not even be alive to see the results. It hints at a deeper, darker philosophical motivation -- the Kochs clearly believe that wealthy oligarchs like them should not only be in control of their own vastly profitable businesses, but have government officials be subservient to them, and have a say in what schools teach students.
Such a philosophy is profoundly unhealthy, and all the more reason that nobody should be able to wield so much power over a nation's politics. Our democratic systems will always be compromised until we can successfully amend our Constitution to say that corporations aren't people, and that money is not speech.