On Wednesday, the Koch foundation launched a $200,000 media campaign in Wichita, Kansas. The video, designed to laud economic freedom and warn against governmental overreach, includes gems such as: "If you earn over $34,000 a year, you are one of the wealthiest 1% in the world. That is the power of economic freedom."
To get the full effect, watch the ad here:
Contrary to the ad's claims, $34,000 doesn't provide you too much economic freedom here in the United States. According to the Economic Policy Institute, a family of three needs at least $44, 617 a year to cover basic living expenses in the cheapest parts of the country.
In an interview with the Wichita Eagle, Charles Koch discussed the motivation behind the ad campaign, and hinted at its expansion, saying, "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 so we've got to clear those out. Or the minimum wage. Or anything that reduces the mobility of labor."
That Koch sees the minimum wage as an obstacle to uplifting the poorest in our country is perplexing at best. For instance, there is much empirical consensus indicating that raising the minimum wage would have little to no effect on employment. In fact, lifting the minimum wage to $9, for example, would greatly help alleviate economic inequality in this country by boosting the economy by $48 billion and easing the income gap for 15 million low-wage workers.
It's unclear exactly how the Koch Foundation is defining economic freedom in this campaign, but it's clear that they are woefully out of touch with the very disadvantaged they claim to be helping. Maybe because Charles and David Koch are actually in the 1%, with an economic net worth of around 1 million times more than $34,000 they laud. Or maybe it's because, although they condemn a culture of dependency, they are on the receiving end of oil subsidies, government contracts, and bailouts. Whatever the case, while Charles Koch bemoans his and his brother's negative reputation, his decision to launch this media campaign is doing him few favors.