Koch Bros Hate the Minimum Wage, but Love Pollution
The Koch Brothers are using their vast wealth to make the government work for them, just like the robber barons of the last century. Once again, we need to stand up and fight back.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, battles raged in our politics, pitting the wealthy industrialists who were raking in millions from oil, coal, steel, and banking, against those at the bottom of society looking for basic protections. Back then, workers wanted an eight hour work day, a prohibition against child labor, and workplace safety improvements. The robber barons held them off for as long as they could, buying politicians, and corrupting the system to serve their ends.
But labor organizers, muckraking journalists, and populist politicians finally succeeded in ushering in a new era of regulations and protections. The lasting result was the establishment of a solid middle class, where working adults could afford college, a house, a family, and a decent chance at retirement. It was an American Dream out of reach for others because of racial or ethnic barriers, but it became the ideal that others during the civil rights era fought for. No matter who you were, everyone strove for the simple idea that if you worked hard, you would be rewarded; that every person, no matter who they are, was represented by their government.
A hundred years later, it sometimes feels that all the strikes and protests and marches and legislative fights of the last century never happened. At the beginning of the 21st century, we’re back in the era of very wealthy people dictating our politics, and crafting a government suitable for their interests, while blocking opportunity for those at the bottom. Just as the Rockefellers, Morgans, and Carnegies did decades ago, industrialists like the Koch Brothers are hard at work making sure this land was made for them and them alone.
Workers now fight for the things we thought we long settled - the right to organize, minimum safety requirements, and a minimum wage that actually keeps pace with how expensive rent, utilities, and food have become. But it goes far beyond that.
In the America that spent a century creating the middle class, working full time does not guarantee you can escape poverty. In fact, if you’re poor in this country, you can’t expect to get a raise because those who make millions of dollars per hour are fighting minimum wage increases. Those who enjoy tax breaks for their yachts and private planes are against expanding Medicaid for poor families. Giant companies who run private prisons are persuading lawmakers to keep up the harsh penalties for drug and immigration violators - the vast majority of them poor - helping to perpetuate the world’s largest prison population.
At the same time, just like their forbearers, the Koch Bros are fighting the inconvenient truth that their major source of income, fossil fuels, are changing the planet in fundamental, life-threatening ways. At every turn, they deny climate change, and employ “scientists” to go on television to push those claims, and donate to politicians who want to stick their head in oil sands and pretend the problem doesn’t exist.
More carbon in the atmosphere is sure to lead to disastrous sea level rise and food shortages in the future, but the associated environmental effects are already being felt...by guess who? If you’re poor in this country, you are also more likely to breathe polluted air.
So what can we do? We’ve seen the ultra-rich try to steal our democracy before, but we’ve also seen how to fight back. We need to support those fighting for a living wage, and those fighting for a cleaner planet. But we also need to seek fundamental change in the way our politics work by supporting efforts to prevent money from corrupting our elections.
Share Koch Brothers Exposed with your friends and family. Don’t let them buy your democracy. And vote on November 4th. Nothing changes in America unless Americans make their voices heard. Will you stay silent?