Anyone even remotely familiar with the Koch brothers is aware the billionaire oil magnates are pro-anything that translates into more personal profits for themselves, and anti-anything that does not explicitly advance their business interests and increase their wealth. Inherent in increasing their wealth is promoting policies and agendas that force Americans to buy more gasoline which is why there is a dearth of options to driving a car on this sad country’s pitiful roads, and why America’s mass transit systems lag the rest of the civilized world. Whether it is paying Republican governors, state legislators, or congressional representatives the Kochs are behind every last effort to kill alternatives to driving. They have successfully blocked several states’ high speed rail projects, and obstructed community progress on bike lanes, light rail, bus rapid transit, or urban communities’ “walkability” factor; any mode of transportation that keeps Americans from driving cars and purchasing gas.
Last April, in Tennessee, the state chapter of one of the Kochs’ legislative arms, Americans for Prosperity, made a well-planned effort to preemptively kill a citizen-approved Nashville bus rapid transit project. It was a very obvious and blatant attempt by the Koch brothers to impose their will on local transportation policy, but it is not reserved to Tennessee or expanding bus routes.
In Indiana, the Koch’s Americans for Prosperity spent time and money as the major opposition voice of another citizen-backed effort to expand mass transit in and around Indianapolis by lobbying state legislators to ban legislation allowing the city to hold a tax referendum to expand its transit network. The Kochs were unsuccessful, but they did convince legislators to forbid the Indianapolis region from ever pursuing light rail service that the Koch brothers’ Cato Institute said was too expensive.
The Koch brothers tasked the local Virginia Americans for Prosperity to ardently oppose and fight a new citizen-approved tax in Loudoun County to fund an extension of the Metro Silver Line extension because it gave country residents an alternative to driving cars; and gave residents without vehicles no ability to travel. The county Board of Supervisors voted to go forward with the project despite the Koch’s opposition, but not before Americans for Prosperity spent Koch money to issue a flurry of scary robo-calls labelling the extension welfare and a “bail-out to rail-station developers.”
Another Koch group and sister organization of ALEC, the State Policy Network, used a subsidiary called the Pioneer Institute to create a manufactured controversy to attack the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority as a complete waste of taxpayer money claiming Boston was paying bus drivers, mechanics, and maintenance workers exorbitant wages based on a flagrantly false ‘cost per mile’ metric. The idea was to turn taxpayers against the bus transit system by portraying the workforce as fleecing the public despite the overwhelming popularity and necessity of bus transit in a “dense, crowded city like Boston.
Through the many networks they fund such as the State Policy Network (SPN), the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, and the Reason Foundation, the Koch brothers goal in nearly every state and locality is, besides privatizing government and schools, to put the brakes on all forms of mass transportation, biking, and community “walkability.” In other words, the Kochs are spending millions to force Americans to drive and buy gasoline, or stay at home.
The Koch agenda has been promoted by a trio of well-paid “anti-mass transit pundits;” Randall O’Toole, Wendell Cox and Stanley Kurtz who are in league with the Koch organizations that are dedicated to either putting out or citing non-scientific study after non-scientific study claiming that climate change is a dirty liberal hoax and an attempt to impose something about Agenda 21 “one-world government” on Americans. If, as the Koch organizations claim, “global warming is myth,” then there is no reason to stop burning fossil fuels in personal automobiles and every reason to oppose mass transit, biking, and communities founded on their well-conceived walkability.
One of the Koch’s biggest targets are high-speed rail projects of which America is the only major industrial nation without even one and it is all down to the Kochs, their many political arms, and Republican governors. For example, despite Florida voters passing an amendment to the state’s constitution ‘requiring’ the state to establish high-speed rail linking its five major cities, Koch-backed organizations and ALEC governor Rick Scott killed the rail project. Scott joined several other Republican governors in hiring the Koch-funded Reason Foundation where David Koch is a trustee to write a report falsely claiming the project would bankrupt the state. Regardless the will of the voters, or the state’s Constitutional amendment, Florida will likely never have a high-speed rail system.
Rick Scott fell in line with other Koch-run states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and New Jersey where ALEC and Republican governors in the employ of the Kochs killed high-speed rail projects. Each of the Republican governors used outright lies, deception, blatantly false data, and scare tactics to justify killing the high-speed rail projects; not because they were too costly, but because the Kochs will not allow them. In fact, a federal investigation found that New Jersey governor Chris Christie lied like the liar he is to justify killing the much-needed high-speed rail line known as ARC; not because of cost or that it was unnecessary, but to make a name for himself among national Republicans and demonstrate to the Koch brothers that he will advance their agenda.
The Kochs have been particularly active in California to stop the incredible job-creating high-speed rail project that finally broke ground last Wednesday after 18 years of Koch opposition and obstruction. In fact, the Koch’s Reason Foundation spent no small amount of time and money to oppose a closely related extension in Los Angeles the Koch group said was a waste of taxpayer money that no intelligent Southern Californian would ever use. However, within a year the new line exceeded 2020s projected ridership and a University of Southern California study revealed that Angelinos living with a half-a-mile from the station reduced their overall driving, and fuel consumption by a whopping 40 percent.
The Koch brothers claim that as staunch libertarians, they champion the individual’s liberty to choose how they go about their business; so long as it comports with the Koch vision of more fuel consumption and Koch profits. It is telling that through their many legislative arms, they are actively thwarting the will of the voters, and were most successful in states with Koch-friendly governors. It is also sickening that the richest nation on Earth cannot keep pace with a poor country like China that does have high speed rail lines, or most second-rate nations that at least have decent mass transit; but those countries do not have two billionaire oil magnates running their nations either.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.