Charles Koch: $34,000 puts you in the top 1%

The billionaire businessman airs ads slamming the minimum wage and insisting that people on it are still relatively wealthy.

By Jason Notte Jul 15, 2013 9:18AM
Video still from 'Economic Freedom in 60 Seconds' video (© CharlesKochFndn via YouTube)The Koch brothers can get left-leaning Americans' blood boiling just by drawing breath. Imagine the rage when they actually poke the bear a bit.


In its continued bid to leave its liberal counterparts as red-faced, flustered and hyperventilated as George Soros leaves his conservative detractors, the Charles Koch Foundation recently released a commercial that suggests an annual income of $34,000 puts a worker among the wealthiest 1% -- in the world.


The basic premise is that Americans don't need things like food stamps or the minimum wage to help them, because they're already so much better off than poor people in the world around them. The Economic Policy Institute can't help but disagree. Its Family Budget Calculator notes that a family of three would require an income of $45,000 a year to cover basic needs in Simpson County, Miss., the U.S. region with the lowest cost of living for a family of that size.


That need changes drastically by location and still dwarfs the $30,000 a year two parents working full time would make from the $7.25 minimum wage. In Wichita, Kan., where Think Progress notes Koch's $200,000 commercial campaign has begun, the amount of income needed to cover basic costs jumps to nearly $54,000.


Bloomberg puts Charles Koch's wealth alone at $43.4 billion. His brother and Koch Industries partner, David, is worth just as much. While that might jaundice their view of what a person on minimum wage needs to survive, Charles Koch insisted to the Wichita Eagle last week that the minimum wage is just one of the items that need to be removed:


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.


In Koch's view, these factors put the hurt on "economic freedom." His ad cites a report from the Koch-funded Fraser Institute showing that the "United States used to be a world leader in economic freedom but our ranking fell. And it's projected to decline even further."


Granted, the same report ranks Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland and Chile ahead of the U.S., despite the fact that they all have the government-run health care systems that Koch also loathes. When you're baiting your opponents into a lather, however, do those little details matter as much as the results?

3213Comments
Jul 15, 2013 10:39AM
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I would love to run an experiment where the Koch brothers survive on minimum wage for a year, or anyone else that thinks it's a livable wage.
Jul 15, 2013 10:40AM
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Just goes to prove that brains and money don't always go hand in hand.  I would love to see Koch live on $34,000 a year.
Jul 15, 2013 10:59AM
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so now we are comparing our income to the entire world instead of just in the US...how convenient.
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The article says 1% in the world.  That is a big difference than 1% in America.   We all know we make more than most do in the world.  That shouldn't mean we have to give up and live like the rest of the world.

  

There are many people that live beyond their means here, no doubt.  Some think that is the only way we can live due to how the economy works.  Not so.

 

I would rather think similar to Dave Ramsey and tell all Americans to not buy anything not needed to survive and pay cash for the luxury items most people go in debt for.  Get out of debt if you are in and stay out of debt if you are not in.

 

If you are out of monetary debt in America, you have a freedom seldom felt by the general public.  It is one of the most satisfying feelings one can ever have.  Go for it!!  

Jul 15, 2013 10:57AM
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these guys are simply disconnected greedy jerks...making the statement about relative

wealth in the US to the rest of the world is obnoxious because it is totally irrelevant...other

nations have different monetary systems, different standards of living, different governments

some oppressive etc....we are the wealthiest nation on earth and 34,000 a year is an income

that just barely would allow a family of four to get bye if that....the koch brothers ought to

be ashamed of themselves and remember SEDAKAH...and stop proving how wealthy and

powerful you are by continually supporting nut jobs for elective office..

Jul 15, 2013 11:01AM
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  Well, with that said, I am sure glad I don't have to live on 34000 a year although I know many who do.  I would just like Koch to explain to me how he is going to get all that wealth to go with him when he dies in a few years.  Maybe then he will rethink his position.  At any rate I would not want to be him or his brother if I had to actually be like him or his brother.  With all their wealth they fail to demonstrate anything but selfishness, bigotry, greed, and a general lack of human compassion!  I would rather be some poor guy with a nice wife and kids struggling to get by.
Jul 15, 2013 11:22AM
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Koch bros. donated enough money, to elect our current Governor, in WI.  Big money runs our Government, not just for the states, but for the fed. as well.
Jul 15, 2013 12:30PM
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It is always interesting when those who have an abundance decide what others without any abundance can live on.  The story of Dives and Lazarus illustrates the point - the fact is - the Koch brothers and others like them have no real idea of what it means to live and perhaps raise a family on 10.00 per hour or 20.00 per hour.  They can have what they want when they want it - with full financial security and never have to ask is they can afford the food, clothing, housing and educational requirements of a typical family.  For them, poverty is an abstraction - not real.  For them, medical care is a given - they are able to do what they want and when they want and not worry about anything except their own wants - their needs are automatically given.  I feel sorry for the Koch Brothers and all who live in a world that they think they have created and so superior to all of those who cannot live at their level.  They are in fact very little people with very little souls - they are the bullies of the economic world who lust after power/wealth and then become addicted to both and try to build up great walls to protect their own delusional kingdom that they have created for themselves.
Jul 15, 2013 10:42AM
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Worth $43.400,000,000 and they state you need only $34,000/year to live.
So doing the math Charlie Koch has enough money to support himself for the next 1.3 million years.
Seems reasonable to me.
Jul 15, 2013 11:58AM
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I'll tell you something that reduces the "mobility of labor". Not being able to afford a car, insurance, and fuel to transport oneself to a meager-paying job!
Jul 15, 2013 11:00AM
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My position is any working person needs to make a "LIVING" wage. A working couple both making the minimum wage or a little better depending on where they live have a hard time just surviving.

Most of these type of jobs offer no type of benefits and are not 40 hours per week.

I'd like to see any of these CEO's survive on what some of their companies pay their workers, They Could not do it.

Places like Costco, Wegman's  pay their employees a better than living wage with benefits, possibility of advancement and have an "EXTREMELY" low employee turnover.

There are many people out there who are more than willing to give their employers a good days work for a good days pay. Too many employers expect to receive a good days work for a poor days wages and some how don't understand why it doesn't happen this way.

My wife is retired and works at our local CVS as a pharmacist technician basically to keep busy.

She gives 110% all of the time. She is constantly being called in on her day off or asked to work longer after her shift is up because she is such a good, dependable employee.

Yet after 7 years she could get a job at a local large chain convenience store and start at over a $1,00 more per hour than she currently receives ???

The CEO of CVS recently received a huge bonus ( in the millions of dollars )

 

Jul 15, 2013 11:15AM
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What scares me the most is that so people will believe them. And I'm not talking about Politian's I'm talking about voters.
Jul 15, 2013 11:06AM
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There's no one who would argue that 30k would make people in some parts of the world " rich " compared to what they make. To say it puts one in the top 1 percent, is on the surface, correct. That doesn't mean they will be able to " live " like those in the top 1 percent does. This is by far, the most ignorant statement I have ever read. Mr. Koch needs a BIG dose of reality. It doesn't take a genius to do the math...this man has more money than he could ever count, but it appears he might have trouble counting it if he only had 34 thousand.
Jul 15, 2013 10:51AM
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53% of americans want the loop holes closed to the top 1% firing the last remaining 47% out of their jobs and forcing them to have to resort to safety net programs to survive. 53% want laws created to penalize the top 1% that close those businesses and reopen them in foreign countries in order to pay laborers as little as $0.12 cents an hour wages and then hide their profits they make off their slave laborers in offshore accounts hoping for another republican led senate, house and president to make those profits tax free and retroactive.

47% of the remaining americans want those loop holes closed and penalties put in place to protect their jobs from being outsourced. Close the loop holes and place a 95% tax on all profits made from selling businesses to foreign soils and especially off the profits they make from foreign labor. On the other hand, keep in place the subsidies given to companies that play fair and keep their businesses in the states and maybe even offer them more incentives to create jobs here at home.

Jul 15, 2013 10:53AM
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practical application and statistics are often worlds apart
Jul 15, 2013 11:45AM
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THIS SUCH HOGWASH....IF YOU LISTEN TO WHAT THIS GUY ISN’T SAYING YOU CAN BETTER DISCERN HIS REAL MESSAGE :

THE 1% IS OF ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE “WORLD”...NOT JUST THE USA.
AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE UNDERLYING THEME IS PURE REPUBLICANISM ON THE RIGHT, “”THERE ARE CLASSES IN THIS COUNTRY AND YOU HAPPEN TO BE IN THE POOR, WORKING CLASS. WE (THE KOCH BROTHERS) ARE IN THE RICH CLASS.”  " THAT’S IT....ACCEPT IT AND STOP COMPLAINING. YOU ARE MEANT TO BE POOR, DON’T ASK FOR ME TO SUPPORT YOU, YOU’RE NOT IN MY CLASS” !

THEY TRULY FEEL THAT THEY ARE AN ENTITLED CLASS AND THE HUBRIS THAT GOES ALONG WITH THEIR OVERALL ATTITUDE.
TO ME THAT’S JUST BLATANTLY STUPID AND UN-AMERICAN !
Jul 15, 2013 1:08PM
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I chose not to be poor.

I went to public schools (Free education for most)
I got a crummy job and worked my way up.
I saved whenever I could (WalMart etc)
I always paid cash.
My first car was older than myself.
Now I own a home, have a 401K and own both my cars.
We go out for dinner 2x a month.
I still pack a lunch to work.
Jul 15, 2013 12:22PM
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I've never earned more than $30,000 in a year in my life, and yet at age 27 I had saved $50,000.  Now my wife stays at home with my son and doesn't work at all, and we live comfortably on just $28,000 per year. The secret is to not spend money on things you don't actually need - like a smartphone, or cigarettes or alcohol, or eating out, or going to the movies, or cable or satellite TV. The problem is the poor think they are entitled to live like the wealthy, and the government supports their efforts to do so.
$34,000 is plenty if you don't blow it on crap that the world says you need.
Jul 15, 2013 10:33AM
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Perdition, you throw out percentages and statements about peoples' attitudes, can you prove them, or are you just being a typical dipstick on these threads?  53% loafers?  I thought it was 47%.  Have you told Romney of the change?

 

Although I would agree there are lazy people in this country, as well as those who want to freeload off of government programs that are so poorly run (the DEMs fault primarily, by the way, I am not a libtard and have complained about this for years), I sincerely doubt that the whole 53% you complain about would fall into those categories, and so you demean a lot of Americans who do not deserve it.  Rather, I'll bet many of those 53% would love to have decent paying jobs, but of course, so many of those have been outsourced to make wealthy people wealthier (kind of like the Koch brothers), that these people are just out of luck right now.

Jul 15, 2013 1:11PM
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Henry Ford was no bleeding-heart liberal.  But he understood that if workers couldn't make enough to buy his cars, his company would not succeed.
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