Herald-Leader Editorial

McConnell promising pain; serving the Kochs will stifle economic growth

September 2, 2014 

Senate-Kentucky

Sen. Mitch McConnell criticized President Barack Obama's efforts on trade policies during an appearance last week at the Kentucky Farm Bureau "Measure the Candidates" forum.

TIMOTHY D. EASLEY — AP

There are billionaires and then there are billionaires.

Some, like Warren Buffett and Nick Hanauer, warn that historically high levels of income inequality are stifling economic growth. They recognize that capitalism needs lots of consumers who can afford to buy what's being produced. They see that the super-rich are better off with a smaller share of a fast-growing economy than a larger share of a slow-growing or stagnant economy.

Then there are billionaires Charles and David Koch. Driven by ideology and narrow self-interest, they seek to depress wages, push even more wealth to the top and limit government's ability to protect workers, public health and the environment.

Sen. Mitch McConnell is firmly in the Kochs' camp, as he made clear in June when he was a featured speaker at one of their twice-yearly private summits, this one at a coastal California resort.

A tape recording of McConnell, made public last week, provides insights into the sycophantic relationship between America's plutocrats and their servants in public office.

Especially fascinating was how McConnell cultivated the sense of victimhood among those who can afford a yacht, a jet and the Congress of their choice. Efforts to reduce the influence of money in elections and government? McConnell maligned them as using government power to silence critics.

Amusing as it is to think of this well-heeled group fancying themselves as oppressed freedom fighters — the name of the gathering was "American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society" — there is a more important take-away for Kentucky voters.

Couple McConnell's statements to the Koch gathering with what he said in a recent Politico interview, what he says on the stump and his record, and voters can conclude:

■ If re-elected, McConnell will support policies that do nothing to curb income inequality and that would, in fact, increase it, thereby stifling economic growth and jobs creation.

■ McConnell also supports policies that would re-create the circumstances that led to the economic crash of 2008, from which many Americans are still trying to dig out.

The Republican leader assured the Kochs and their friends that he would use budget riders to stymie protections for consumers and the economy enacted to avoid a repeat of the financial meltdown. And he expressed contempt for policies that would help the middle class regain its economic footing, such as a minimum-wage increase, extended unemployment benefits and relief from student-loan debt.

"We're not going to be debating all these gosh-darn proposals," McConnell promised if Republicans gain control of the Senate and he becomes its leader.

The recession ended five years ago. Wall Street is setting record highs, yet too many people say they are economically insecure.

Kentucky needs an additional 80,800 jobs to make up for losses in the recession and keep up with the state's 4 percent population growth, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

A branch of the Kochs' political organization, Americans for Prosperity, recently opened in Kentucky, with the spouse of a McConnell field rep as its director.

On the recently disclosed tape, McConnell is heard thanking the Koch brothers "for the important work you're doing. I don't know where we'd be without you."

What Kentucky voters should think about is where we'd be with them pulling the strings of the U.S. Senate.

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