Selling Our Vets to the Highest Bidder: What Do the Koch Brothers Want?
April 10, 2018
Senator Bernie Sanders
Commentary: "I believe the major issue not being discussed by the corporate media is the power of the Koch brothers and the movement in this country toward oligarchy -- a nation where our economic and political life is increasingly controlled by a handful of billionaires. Seen any good programs about that lately on CBS, NBC, ABC or anywhere else? I haven't."
What Do the Koch Brothers Want?
Senator Bernie Sanders
(April 9, 2018) -- What is the most important issue that the corporate media refuses to seriously discuss? Well, take your pick.
It could be climate change, and the fact that the fossil fuel industry believes that their short-term profits are more important than the future of our planet.
It could be health care, and why it is that the United States is the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all as a right.
It could be the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we experience, and the rather remarkable reality that three people in our country now own more wealth than the bottom 160,000,000 people.
It could be _ _ _ _. Well, your guess is as good as mine.
But let me tell you what I think. I believe the major issue not being discussed by the corporate media is the power of the Koch brothers and the movement in this country toward oligarchy -- a nation where our economic and political life is increasingly controlled by a handful of billionaires. Seen any good programs about that lately on CBS, NBC, ABC or anywhere else? I haven't.
In case you didn't know, the Koch brothers, Charles and David, are the second-wealthiest family in the country, worth over $120 billion. This year, according to various media sources, the Koch brothers network plans to spend some $400 million in the midterm elections. Yes. $400 million. That is on top of the $750 million they pledged to spend in 2016, $290 million in 2014 and over $400 million in 2012.
That's a lot of money, but that's probably only part of the story. Given the existence of super PACs and the opaque nature of campaign funding, it is quite possible that they spend much more. Further, and importantly, their political spending goes far beyond election campaigns. They make enormous investments in right-wing think tanks and in universities -- pushing students and the general population toward their extreme right-wing ideology.
They also fund numerous organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), FreedomWorks, Generation Opportunity, 60 Plus Association, Institute for Energy Research, Concerned Veterans of America and many more.
What do the Koch brothers want? What is their ideology? What is their legislative agenda?
Simply stated, they want to repeal virtually every major piece of legislation passed since the 1930s that protects working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. They believe that government should play virtually no role in protecting those in need, and that almost all services now provided by government should be privatized and handed over to large corporations.
Before the Koch brothers began their takeover of the Republican Party, David Koch was active in the Libertarian Party. In fact, in 1980, he ran as the Libertarian Party's vice-presidential candidate.
Here are just a few excerpts of the Libertarian Party platform that David Koch ran on in 1980:
* "We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission."
* "We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs."
* "We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services."
* "We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry."
* "We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary."
* "We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service."
* "We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes."
* "We support the eventual repeal of all taxation."
* "As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately."
* "We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws."
* "We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended."
* "We condemn compulsory education laws . . . and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws."
* "We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit."
* "We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency."
* "We support abolition of the Department of Energy."
* "We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation."
* "We demand the return of America's railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system."
* "We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called "self-protection" equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets."
* "We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration."
* "We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration."
* "We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children."
* "We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and 'aid to the poor' programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals."
* "We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households."
* "We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act."
* "We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission."
* "We support the repeal of all state usury laws."
That was 1980, and the Libertarian Party national ticket received 1 percent of the vote for what most Americans considered a crazy and extremist agenda. Today, in 2018, because of the Koch brothers' power and influence, many of these ideas have now become mainstream within the increasingly right-wing Republican Party.
In that regard, let me give you an example of what is happening right now with President Trump and the Koch brothers' plan to privatize health care for millions of our nation's veterans, and then I am going to ask you to make your voice heard to stop them.
Let's start with something that we should all be able to agree on:
While serious people can have legitimate differences of opinion about when our country should go to war, there should never be a debate as to whether we fulfill the promises made to the men and women who served this country in the military. Planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war, but so is taking care of the men and women we send to fight them.
Now, last week President Trump made the decision to fire the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dr. David Shulkin. And what I would strongly suspect is that he made that decision because Dr. Shulkin was not moving fast enough toward privatizing veterans' health care in this country.
Here is the truth: the VA is the largest integrated health care system in this country. And if you actually listen to the veterans of this country who rely on the VA, what most of them will tell you is that they are quite pleased with the care they receive.
Now, of course we must continually work to improve the VA, but what almost every single major veterans organization in this country says is that we must strengthen the VA, not privatize it.
That is because privatizing the VA would severely underfund the department and leave many veterans without easy access to quality care -- oftentimes specialized care required for service-connected injuries that VA centers are better equipped to handle than a local doctor or hospital.
On the other side, you have the Koch brothers, the second-wealthiest family in the United States, who are going to spend $400 million in the coming elections. They have enormous power because of that and what they believe is that we must privatize not just the VA, but Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Not coincidentally, privatizing the VA would also significantly enrich some of the nation's wealthiest health care executives.
So here is where I ask you to act:
President Trump has nominated his personal physician Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson to replace former Secretary Shulkin. And while he has not said as much, I would strongly suspect that Rear Admiral Jackson's mission is to carry out the wishes of the Koch brothers, and to oversee the privatization of the VA.
So today, I want to send a message to my colleagues who must give their consent to this nomination, and I need your help to do it:
The drive to privatize veterans' health care is part of a broader approach by the Trump administration, fulfilling the agenda of the Koch brothers.
We have a Secretary of Education who doesn't support public education.
We have an EPA Administrator who doesn't believe in environmental protection and is pursuing a massive deregulation effort.
We have a Treasury Secretary from Goldman Sachs who worked overtime to pass a massive redistribution of wealth and income from the working class to some of the richest and most powerful people in this country.
We have a Secretary of Health and Human Services who President Trump pulled from the pharmaceutical industry at a time when the United States pays the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, by far.
Now it is likely the president is nominating someone to head the Department of Veterans Affairs whose mission will be to privatize veterans' health care.
Right now, our job is to improve and strengthen VA health care on what already works reasonably well, and not to dismember it. That is a fear that many veterans service organizations have, and it is one that I share.
If you do as well, I hope that you will make your voice heard:
How can it be that we have enough money to give tax breaks to billionaires and spend more on defense than the next twelve countries combined, but we don't have enough to make sure that every veteran who went to war and served this country has the quality health care they need here at home?
Privatizing the VA would be a moral abomination, and one that I will fight to stop.
ACTION: Sign My Petition:
"The US Senate must reject the nomination of Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs unless he pledges to support strengthening the VA and opposes privatization. The Senate cannot approve any nominee who prioritizes the profits of a handful of health care executives over the health of our veterans."
Thanks for lending your name to the fight.