“If you earn over $34,000 a year, you are one of the wealthiest 1 percent in the world.”
That’s the opening line to Charles Koch’s new promotional video on his “economic freedom (aka: “get rid of minimum wage”) campaign.
Which makes us ponder: does he actually think that by comparing $34,000 in America’s economy to, say, a Third World country that doesn’t even have clean water will convince us that $34K in America is wealth, akin to the 1 percent of which this man – worth $44 BILLION – is a member?? Yes, he is. And it appears he also believes this tactic will convince us that by removing the minimum wage we will push even more people to that rarefied 1 percent.
Here’s Koch logic: if we pay people LESS, they’ll be inspired to do MORE.
No, don’t brush off it off, imagine it: cleaning ladies getting pumped to go out and raise venture capital; office workers below minimum wage jazzed at the idea of starting their own businesses; janitors, food servers and secretaries so starved for income they buck up and start multi-national corporations. No, really, think of it.
YOU CAN’T THINK OF IT BECAUSE IT’S THE STUPIDEST IDEA EVER.
But leave it to a clueless, entitled, arrogant gazillionaire – whose lack of true empathy shines bright and whose pocketbook shines GOP-ready – to come up with this insipid rationale for greed.
Charles Koch, who, with his brother, David, is the deep, deep, deep pocket funding conservative politicians, GOP super PACs, and various other Republican causes (with plans to do much more coming up), has decided to take on the little people… or rather, define how best to help the little people crawl out of their “culture of dependency” to find “economic freedom.” And he thinks that’s best done by rejecting government regulations like the minimum wage. From the Witchta Eagle:
“We want to do a better job of raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country, rather than saying ‘Oh, we’re just fine now.’ We’re not saying that at all. What we’re saying is, we need to analyze all these additional policies, these subsidies, this cronyism, this avalanche of regulations, all these things that are creating a culture of dependency. And like permitting, to start a business, in many cities, to drive a taxicab, to become a hairdresser. Anything that people with limited capital can do to raise themselves up, they keep throwing obstacles in their way. And so we’ve got to clear those out. Or the minimum wage. Or anything that reduces the mobility of labor.” [Emphasis added.]
Yes, dammit, let’s get rid of that pesky little obstacle called “the minimum wage” so cousin Marge can leave her shitty desk job and get more “mobile” in her clerical career!
It’s stunning to intelligent people – those not entrenched in the greed principle of the conservative movement – to hear a grown man of any political stripe make such crass, insensitive and detached-from-reality statements. One can only assume Charles Koch has been so rich for so long that he has no idea what it takes to survive in the real world that is the American working poor. That place where it’s a struggle to pull enough money together just to cover bills and get the kids fed; that place where the cost of living drains a measly hourly wage before you can save even a penny; that place where jobs offer no benefits, no security and no options for paid days when the baby’s sick or your mother needs surgery. THAT place has much more to do with a lack of economic freedom than anyone’s reliance on the promise of a minimum wage (which isn’t nearly enough at that). That place is also filled with hardworking, fiercely independent Americans fighting for a good life… not the groveling, freeloading, hands-out 47% caricatures the GOP loves to define as the working poor.
But Koch and his conservative cronies remain convinced of this fantasy world in which those working poor are just too lazy or too comfortable with their poverty-level wages to get motivated, particularly with a government focused on throwing them ‘obstacles’ like that damn $7.25 per hour. In fact, Brother Charles is so convinced of this thesis that he’s putting up $200,000 to start a media campaign to run for four weeks in Wichita, Kansas to promote it. He wants to see how the idea flies and if it does well in Kansas, he’ll get it out to other states. Likely the locational choice was not random; beyond the fact that it’s his hometown, those midwestern conservatives do tend to get all riled up at the idea of ‘urban dependents’ sucking off the government teat; where better to spark the flame of politically-disguised prejudice?
The point of it, Koch said, is that he believes prosperity grows where economic freedom is greatest, where government intervention in business affairs is kept to a minimum. He hopes his ideas will help the country grow, he said. In his interview he emphasized several times that he believes his ideas on economics will help disadvantaged people. Government regulations – including the minimum wage law – tend to hold everyone back, he said. [… ]
Larry Jacobs, a professor of politics at the University of Minnesota, said this may signal that one of America’s more powerful and influential men has conceived of a new way to get his ideas across.
“I actually find that what he’s done in stepping outside his cocoon, taking the risk of talking to you … to be personally poignant,” Jacobs said. “You almost get the feeling that he feels a frustration that he’s being misunderstood as a kind of a threat to America, a greedy threat, and that he feels like he’s unfairly demagogued. He wants his message to resonate, so he’s now offering a positive agenda that applies to all of America.”
Many of Koch’s ideas about government regulations are contentious and “probably won’t go anywhere,” Jacobs said, because many people believe that some regulations give the poor and disenfranchised a “minimum floor” of protection. [Source. Emphasis added.]
In his phone interview with The Witchita Eagle, a “misunderstood” Koch seemed eager to define himself as a concerned American just looking out for both his country and the people in it. He made comments about how the U.S. economy is declining and how bad that is for all of us. He remarked that even the poor in “free countries” fare better than other, presumably less free, countries (like ones with the damn minimum wage); he emphasized that his intentions are not only good, they’re essential to wiping out cronyism in business and “helping the disadvantaged.” All good stuff if you close your eyes to who’s talking and wipe your memory clean of his previous and ongoing history of funding greed-based big business and political platforms.
Frankly, Koch seems unduly concerned with how he’s perceived and how this new and very public campaign will be viewed by his critics. When discussing how people might attack him for this push against issues like the minimum wage, he offered a preemptory strike:
“The people who are more interested in power and their own interest rather than the general interest are threatened by these ideas. And this is an old dialectical trick that (philosopher Arthur) Schopenhauer articulated, that if you can’t answer somebody’s ideas, you attack them personally. Or you say they’ve got a special interest.”
Poetic, but off the mark, Chuck. Those who disagree with you are not “threatened by these ideas’; they’re stunned at the lack of reason and rationale upon which they’re based. While the notion of “economic freedom” is an excellent one, and the wish to empower people to take financial risks, build financial security and create financial independence a fine notion, a delusional theory about the minimum wage undercuts any logic within the argument. Typically government regulations come about because the private section has been unable to set a reasonable standard or solve its own problems. Minimum wage exists because, without it, too many at that level of employment would end up becoming indentured servants. Wage regulations exist to protect those people from greed, selfishness, and oppression.
So, how about that $200,000 campaign to end greed? That would go a long way toward economic freedom for the masses. Until then … they get minimum wage.
Here’s the video: