Charles Koch. (AP Photo/Topeka Capital-Journal, Mike Burley)
Quit whining, American poor people and refugees from the middle class. You’re actually part of the 1 percent.
That’s the laughably misleading claim in a new ad from right-wing multibillionaire Charles Koch. The $200,000 ad campaign, now running in Kansas, starts off like one of those breathless infomercials: “Are you in the 1 percent?” a male voiceover asks. “Well, if you earn over $34,000 a year, you are one of the wealthiest one percent”—he pauses slightly before the kicker—“in the world.”
That’s right, all you have to do is to look at the very big picture, and count your blessings that you live in free-market economy. “People in the most economically free countries,” the narrator tries to explain, “earn on average over eight times more than people in the least free. The poor earn ten times as much.”
And what is this “economic freedom” that lets you imagine you’re clinking martini glasses with hedge-fund managers at their penthouse soirées? Simply, it’s freedom from government regulations, the kind that so constrain Charles Koch and his brother David, the sixth richest men in the world (net worth each: $43.4 billion). Watch:
But let’s get real. A household income of $34,000 for a family of two parents and two children in America is close enough to the poverty level to qualify that family for federal subsidies, like food stamps. And according to the Economic Policy Institute, that family would need an income of $48,144 to cover its basic living expenses in Marshall County, Mississippi, one of the cheaper places to live, while $53,721 would keep it above water in the more expensive Wichita, Kansas, where Koch Industries is headquartered.
By torturing the Occupy term “1 percent” until it’s forced to include America’s poor, Charles Koch is simply promoting the Reagan, Romney, Limbaugh, and Hannity dogma that poor people (the “takers”) never had it so good. Citing a 2011 Heritage Foundation report finding that many poor people own appliances, Fox News’s Stu Varney complained that “99 percent of them have a refrigerator. 81 percent have a microwave.” (Colbert: “ A refrigerator and a microwave? They can preserve and heat food? Ooh, la la! I guess the poor are too good for mold and trichinosis.”)