Billionaire conservative megadonor Charles Koch slammed President Donald Trump’s announced plans to impose fresh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports in a Washington Post op-ed, arguing that such policies would do far more harm than good for the U.S., both economically and culturally.
“Just as the United States benefits from the ideas and skills that opportunity-seeking immigrants bring with them, free trade has been essential to our society’s prosperity and to people improving their lives,” Koch wrote in his op-ed, published online Wednesday night. “Countries with the freest trade have tended to not only be the wealthiest but also the most tolerant. Conversely, the restriction of trade — whether through tariffs, quotas or other means — has hurt the economy and pitted people against each other.
“Without a doubt, those who can least afford it will be harmed the most. Having just helped consumers keep more of their money by passing tax reform, it makes little sense to take it away via higher costs,” Koch wrote.
A few days ago the Public Broadcasting Service announced it was returning a $3.5-million grant it had received from a Texas billionaire to fund a series of documentaries about the “pension peril” — the costs to cities and states of their public employee retirement obligations. PBS took the action after a report in the tech news website PandoDaily exposed the conflict of interestunderlying the original donation.
That was the good news. The bad news was that PBS had accepted the funding from a self-interested billionaire in the first place. The worse news is that this sort of fundraising from the rich has undermined what originally set PBS apart — its independence from vested interests.
The $3.5-million grant had been made by John D. Arnold, a billionaire natural gas trader from Houston. The series of news segments on the PBS NewsHour it funded, “Pension Peril,” included an episode on California public pensions. That segment mentioned a ballot initiative being pushed in the state to roll back public employee pensions — an initiative campaign being partially funded by, yes, John D. Arnold (through something called the Action Now Initiative).
Most Californians don’t recognize John Arnold’s name. They should. Before setting up his own trading firm, he was an energy trader at Enron — a firm that ruthlessly manipulated the California energy market, leaving the state’s residents with costs they’re still paying.