Koch: America isn’t a land just for the rich (like me)

Charles Koch
Special To The Washington Post

Like Alexis de Tocqueville nearly 200 years ago, I believe American society thrives when people act out of an enlightened regard for themselves that constantly prompts them to assist each other. I remain optimistic that our nation can unify around policies that promote a system of mutual benefit for people from all walks of life.

As President Donald Trump nears 100 days in office, we are moving closer to that ideal in some respects, but not in others. But no president can – or should – be expected to solve every problem alone. To be successful, leaders in any field must listen to everyone, even those with whom they disagree.

On the plus side, the president has taken a thoughtful approach to regulatory reform. He has appointed a strong team capable of acting on the best ideas to remove unnecessary regulations that undermine innovation, competition and opportunities for those who need them most. I also applaud the president’s selection of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. With a career of prioritizing the Constitution over political gamesmanship, the new justice will be a critical voice of properly applied constitutional law.

At the same time, I view some actions of this administration as counterproductive. These include broad travel bans, discouraging free trade and a tendency toward rhetoric that too easily divides Americans instead of uniting them.

But rather than spending too much time looking back – even if only for 100 days – we need to look forward. The president and lawmakers have an excellent opportunity to take bold steps here and now to reverse the United States’ trajectory toward a two-tiered system: one that benefits the wealthy and well-connected (including big businesses such as Koch Industries) at the expense of everyone else.

In addressing the United States’ challenges, I encourage the president to evaluate every policy on its potential to help people improve their lives. No piece of legislation will ever be perfect, and allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good only further accentuates our country’s divisions. Good policy moves us closer to this ideal, even if by small steps.

With this principle in mind, here are a few policy changes I believe are vital – and genuinely achievable, by this president, at this moment – to improving well-being and opportunity for all Americans:

Comprehensive tax reform is long overdue. Americans deserve much, much better. The president’s newly offered plan to reduce rates and simplify the code is a step in the right direction. I am also encouraged by the absence of Congress’ proposed border adjustment tax (or any tax) that would increase the profits of industrial companies such as Koch by raising the price on goods that Americans rely on every day.

This administration should instead make room for tax cuts by encouraging Congress to rein in wasteful spending and reduce corporate welfare provisions that benefit big business at the expense of families. A tax code that champions Main Street is vital for economic growth and innovation. On these issues, the president is well-positioned to lead.

The healthcare debate has been a mess, but I’m hopeful the president can get it on track. Let’s start by laying the foundation for innovation; this will reduce costs and improve quality for everyone. This can’t happen without new legislation, but there are actions the administration can take in the meantime, such as reforming the Food and Drug Administration and granting discretion to states to innovate within the constructs of Obamacare and Medicaid. While not perfect, such actions can move us closer to a system where all individuals can choose the affordable care that is best for them.

As a candidate, the president spoke passionately about the need to reduce crime rates and improve safety, particularly in urban areas. I agree. When criminal sentences are just and fit the offense, and when those who have committed nonviolent crimes learn from their mistakes and get a second chance, we all benefit. Instead, what we have today is an epidemic of over-incarceration that breeds distrust and increases violence between the police and the communities they serve. The president can break this cycle by working with lawmakers who stand ready to reform our criminal-justice system.

I do not see eye to eye with the president (or anyone) on all issues; however, as with all administrations, I stand ready to help him do right, wherever I can.

I believe Trump has a tremendous opportunity to pave the way – in the next 100 days and beyond – for long-term economic success and greater prosperity for all. I wish him the best and look forward to collaborating with him and anyone – regardless of political party or ideology – who is passionate about advancing a free, open and flourishing society.

Koch is chairman and chief executive of Koch Industries.

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