Where left is right

Here’s an intriguing opening for common sense to invade politics. Billionaire Charles Koch, a major bogeyman of the left, has just written a thoughtful Washington Post piece on how he agrees with Bernie Sanders, fast-rising bogeyman of the right, that tax loopholes for the rich are bad. Can I just say I’ve been making the same point for years? In this country the political left and right seem equally devoted to these backdoor handouts and it’s time they both got smart like Koch and Sanders.

It might seem odd to hear this major financier of right-wing Republicans endorse the criticism of that socialist about “a political and economic system that is often rigged to help the privileged few at the expense of everyone else, particularly the least advantaged” and agree with Sanders that “we have a two-tiered society that increasingly dooms millions of our fellow citizens to lives of poverty and hopelessness” in which “many corporations seek and benefit from corporate welfare while ordinary citizens are denied opportunities and a level playing field.”

But Koch goes further.

“Democrats and Republicans have too often favored policies and regulations that pick winners and losers,” he writes. “This helps perpetuate a cycle of control, dependency, cronyism and poverty in the United States.” And furthermore, “it’s not enough to say that government alone is to blame. Large portions of the business community have actively pushed for these policies.”

Exactly. If you build it they will come. A state in the business of handing out sums of money that boggle the mind, including by Koch’s reckoning “$1.5 trillion in exemptions and special-interest carve-outs” in the tax code alone, may mantle itself in rhetoric about compassion and the less fortunate. But it’s the well-connected, confidently alert to opportunities and accustomed to privileged treatment, who will know how to cash in, including quietly persuading lawmakers to create new handouts for them and their buddies.

I strongly urge you to read this eyebrow-raising piece, in which Koch even says that his own businesses do not ask prospective employees about prior criminal convictions because of the unfair way drug laws burden the poor and marginalized. Because as he says, Koch is no socialist. Rather, he firmly opposes Sanders’ desire for more government, saying “This is what built so many barriers to opportunity in the first place.” But he’s not looking for a fight.

Instead he’s hoping that if left and right can see eye to eye on the loophole issue, perhaps it’s one area where a major injustice can be corrected in a genuinely constructive way.

I know, it’s a long shot. But it’s worth a try. Even here in Canada, where not a sparrow flutters by without someone offering it a subsidy.