Corporatism, Education — October 28, 2014 at 7:12 am

The Koch brothers in Michigan news. As in actually creating “the news”.


The Koch brothers are in the news a lot these days. Yeah, they are written about IN news stories, of course. But that’s not what I’m talking about. The Koch brothers are in the news by actually creating the news in a way that promotes their own corporatist ideology that anything that is good for private corporations is good. Period. Through their various front groups, they are infiltrating the newspapers through corporate-friendly articles and, more commonly, through op-eds written by people who work for one of their front groups.

And they’ve been busy right here in Michigan this week.

Media Matters points out that a Koch brothers-worshipping op-ed in the Midland Daily News was actually written by Timothy Nash who is basically a Koch employee:

An op-ed in Michigan’s Midland Daily News praising the billionaire Koch brothers and defending their relentless spending intended to influence elections failed to disclose the author’s significant connections to the Koch brothers.

In his October 26 op-ed in the Midland Daily News, Timothy Nash, identified as “vice president and economics professor at Northwood University,” praised the economic success of Koch Industries and of the philanthropy of the company’s leaders, Charles and David Koch. Nash rejected those who criticize the Kochs for their political action, attributing their political spending, which reached over $400 million in 2012 and is setting records in 2014, to “a belief in, passion for, and support of the traditional values that have made America great.”

However, the Midland Daily News failed to reveal Nash’s own significant and beneficial relationship to the Koch brothers. In February 2011, Nash was announced as the director of the Koch Scholars program at Northwood University, which is funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. In addition, Nash is listed as an adjunct professor with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Koch-funded think tank. […]

As “the largest conservative state-level policy think tank in the nation,” the Mackinac Center is part of the State Policy Network (SPN). SPN members work to produce research to lend legitimacy for the right-wing agenda “that aims to privatize education, block healthcare reform, restrict workers’ rights, roll back environmental protections.”

Not only is Nash being paid by the Mackinac Center and in his position at Northwood University (mission: “to develop the future leaders of a global, free-enterprise society”), both of which funnel Koch money into his wallet, he serves on the board of the Free Enterprise Institute (FEI), yet another Koch-funded group.

I’ve written about the SPN before (HERE and HERE) and here we see their results of their efforts on clear display. And, as the Media Matters piece points out, the newspaper that ran the Koch brothers kowtow didn’t bother to mention Nash’s close personal connection to the billionaire purchasers of democracy.

In another example, the Detroit News published an op-ed this morning that is essentially a political ad for State Rep. Bob Genetski, Tim Walberg, and Gov. Snyder, tying them to the topic of higher education reform. The op-ed was written by Kevin Gardner who is described as “Michigan state director for Generation Opportunity, a youth advocacy organization.”

Who is Generation Opportunity? Well, I can tell you what it’s not. It’s not just a group of college kids looking to find ways to make higher education less expensive. Actually, they are yet another well-funded Koch brothers front group.

Generation Opportunity (GenOp) is a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization based in Arlington, Virginia funded by Freedom Partners, a multimillion dollar Koch-tied funding vehicle. On the group’s website, its describes itself as “a free-thinking, liberty-loving, national organization of young people promoting the best of Being American: opportunity, creativity and freedom.” According to OpenSecrets, “[i]n the three years for which tax information is available, Generation Opportunity has raised almost 86 percent of its funds from just two Koch-linked nonprofits.” In 2014, Generation opportunity has spent big money in Senate races against three Democrats: Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Mark Udall (D-CO). Mary Bottari reported on that, “Gen Opp spent a total of $900,000 against Udall, $825,000 against Hagan, and $550,000 against Landrieu, bringing the ad buy to $2.275 million.”

You probably remember Generation Opportunity best for their creepy anti-Obamacare ads last year that showed Uncle Sam readying himself to practice gynecology on a woman in stirrups. This is well-funded group with millions upon millions of dollars to spend.

In The Detroit News op-ed, Gardner tells us that the answer to the upward spiraling costs of higher education is – I’m not kidding – accreditation reform:

There are fundamental flaws in the higher education system that affect young people by driving up college costs and discouraging innovative approaches to post-secondary schooling. Consequently, while the price tag for a college degree has gone up by 500 percent over the last 20 years, young people have been blocked from pursuing new educational alternatives.

The most critical change that must occur is accreditation reform.

Currently, institutions receive a so-called seal of approval from one of six regional accrediting agencies. These accreditors are little more than glorified gatekeepers of government money, but without their approval, colleges cannot receive federal funds. Whether or not an institution receives accreditation has nothing to do with the quality of programs offered or how prepared students are to enter the workforce — it’s a matter of money and money alone, meaning that start-ups with limited capital probably won’t be able to get through the gate.

This faulty system directly impacts young people, as students can only receive financial aid if they enroll in an accredited institution. […]

Snyder is joined by Congressman Tim Walberg and State Rep. Bob Genetski in holding the sentiment that higher education in Michigan needs immediate reform. Walberg has questioned why so many students require remedial classes, concluding that colleges are being encouraged to essentially manufacture students. Genetski, for his part, has expressed concern that our state is spending too much taxpayer money on institutions with student success rates that simply don’t match up.

Apparently the reason why so many students are leaving college with such crushing debt loads is because accreditation is too strict. Given that medical students are probably the hardest hit by debt, perhaps we should start lowering the accreditation bar on medical schools and start encouraging more med school “start-ups”. What could possibly go wrong with that scenario?

In truth, this is little more than a typical corporatist effort to funnel more of our tax dollars into private, for-profit ventures. In this case its college/university “start-ups”.

Watch those op-eds very closely, particularly around election time. Chances are good that the Koch brothers are coming to a newspaper near you. And you may never see it coming.

[CC image credit: DonkeyHotey | Flickr]