Charles Koch and Bernie Sanders would not appear to have much in common politically, but it seems the billionaire industrialist and philanthropist co-owner of Koch Industries and the frazzled, socialist from Vermont share similar views on the problems of income inequality and the negative impact of disparate punishment standards in the U.S. criminal justice system.
Charles Koch, in an op-ed piece stated that he shared Sanders’ concern with the growing income gap in America, and the ability of the rich and powerful to shape events though political contributions and cause advocacy. Koch has written extensively on this subject, but this is the first time he has linked growing income inequality and political power with a specific candidates’ views on the subject. Bernie Sanders has been harshly critical of the role of corporate interests in shaping the U.S. political landscape, so it might seem odd that one of the most recognizable and effective practitioners of direct political action financing agrees that the disparity in power and resources is having a negative impact on the American body politic.
Further, Charles Koch writes about the need for the reform of the U.S. justice system as regards sentencing and rehabilitation, and explains the difficulty of an individual processed in this system to receive fair treatment if they lack the resources to mount an adequate defense. The re-entry of an individual into the mainstream is further hampered by the stigma of incarceration and this, according to Koch, must be examined if we are to utilize the energy and capabilities of all individuals in a society and not marginalize those attempting to put their lives in order after serving a prison sentence. To this end, Koch Industries has eliminated the practice of asking about a potential job applicants criminal background on employment applications. Charles Koch agrees with Bernie Sanders about judicial reform and more effective rehabilitation if we are to become a more just and humane society.
Where Charles Koch and the Senator from Vermont differ greatly is their specific remedies to these complex issues. Socialist Sanders is a major advocate for an increase in government and bureaucracy to create agencies and government regulations to deal with social and economic disparities. Koch has been a champion of private individual efforts to reform U.S. institutions and create a more efficient and equitable society. There is a consensus as to the need for effective action to combat societal ills, but dramatic differences about the means to go about achieving these ends.