Who better than the Kochs to dish up some handy tips for lifting people out of poverty

If you like your life skills advice with a side helping of conservative politics, Bridge to Wellbeing is for you

Published September 18, 2015 12:00PM (EDT)

  (AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
(AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Who says the Koch brothers don’t care about the needy?

Lost amid the noise of the presidential election is the news, little reported, that the Kochs have begun offering seminars that teach life skills such as frugality, discipline and self-sufficiency to people who are struggling to survive in tough times.

This is not a joke.  The institute is called the Bridge to Wellbeing and is housed in the foundation arm of the Kochs’ political group, Americans for Prosperity. There are seminars being offered with such names as Couponing, Budgeting, Dinner on a Dime, and Grow Your Garden, among others.

But there’s a catch.  If you read the course descriptions carefully, you will see that they also cover such topics as “how government and policies impact our lives” and “the importance of a free society.” In the Couponing course, for example, the website says that you will learn not only how to “keep the pantry full” by clipping coupons, but also how “government policies are causing food and grocery prices to rise.”  And a page called “policies impacting you”  says that food is expensive because of environmental regulations espoused by Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama.

Another seminar, Flip the Switch, says it will help you conserve energy in your home. How? “Once you understand why energy costs have gotten so high,” the description reads, "you will stop “throwing money out the window to utility companies.”  The policy section cites renewable energy subsidies and Obama’s “aggressive pursuit of a green agenda” as the main culprits of high energy prices.  A seminar called Passion for Profit promises to teach you how to make a fortune as an e-commerce entrepreneur, but will also leave you with an “awareness of harmful internet regulations.”

See how this works? The Kochs have invented a whole new type of philanthropy, whereby a poor person can achieve “wellbeing” simply by learning how liberal policies have caused his or her plight. Better still, that person might become a foot soldier in the Kochs' army. One of the courses is titled Inspiring the Dream and promises to “highlight policies that hinder businesses and individuals from succeeding.” Another is called Speak up and Speak Out and explains how to call your legislator. Who knew that wellbeing could be achieved simply by lobbying for Americans for Prosperity?

Meanwhile, the instructors and administrators are top-notch academics, judging by their bios.  They include:

  • Justine Fink, who works for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and “is passionate about helping people improve their lives and strengthening America’s culture of freedom."
  • Lindsay Matlock, “whose passion for AFP started at a young age when she witnessed government overreach and regulations destroy her family’s business” and who “oversaw AFP’s bus tours";
  • and Nichole Thornton, an instructor “focused on teaching courses about the constitution and individual rights” (but who isn’t a lawyer) and spreading “the message of limited government and liberty through teaching.”

What could be more helpful to a struggling American worker than to spend a day learning life skills from such enlightened masters?

And the course guide is comprehensive.  In the Health section, there is a course called Ask Your Doctor that teaches you how to speak with your physician--not about your health, but about Obamacare.  “Today’s public healthcare policies come attached with many unintended consequences which could have serious effects on you and your family’s health,” the course description says.  “With the great uncertainty surrounding the recent changes in our healthcare system, it is important to gain an understanding from a source you know you can trust.”

The Affordability section has courses called Grow Your Garden and Dinner on a Dime, which will show you how to a eat a cheap meal, to avoid having to earn a minimum wage (which the policy page says is bad for America’s economy) or taking food stamps (a federal program the site describes as largely unnecessary). Is Your Child’s School Any Good? is a seminar that will help your child attain wellbeing by “learning what makes a good school,” which the policy page describes as pretty much any school that eschews teachers’ unions or Common Core.

And finally, if you are working two jobs, the Kochs are offering a Time Management seminar that will help you "learn common pitfalls that kill productivity.”  “Find the time to feed your family better and still squeeze in time for yourself to exercise,” the site advertises, and you can then “use the extra minutes to purchase inexpensive, tasty ingredients to keep your family full all week long!”

I personally am looking forward to the social events, one of which is called Tapas and Topics, a twice-monthly gathering for “freedom lovers to taste dishes and discuss important topics affecting the country.”  I can’t wait.

The Bridge to Wellbeing homepage can be found here. You will think it’s a joke when you see it, but sadly, it isn’t.

By Eric Stern

Eric Stern is Deputy Secretary of State in Montana.

MORE FROM Eric Stern

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Americans For Prosperity Bridge To Wellbeing Koch Brothers