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Blue The Nation | August 20, 2014

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Four Things Charles Koch Doesn’t Understand About Wealth

Four Things Charles Koch Doesn’t Understand About Wealth
Jonathan Nathan

You know, for one of the most famously rich assholes of our time, Charles Koch really doesn’t understand wealth. Well, either he doesn’t understand it or he’s pretending not to. It’s your choice whether you believe him. He and his brother David are the prominent kajillionaires who have been bankrolling everything horrible and wrong in the world. Charles is now spearheading a public-relations campaign designed to convince Americans that they’re all actually doing really well, pointing out that a worker making $34,000 a year is in “the 1%” of the world’s population.

The reason Charles is handling the campaign is that David is currently occupied overseeing the final stages of construction on the Koch Brothers’ new project. Many Bothans died to bring us this information.

I’m so glad the Koch Brothers are here to let us all in on such secrets! I mean heck, I thought I had just read somewhere that a family of four in the Bay Area needs something like $85k a year just to make basic ends meet, but apparently that family is already among the global power elite with less than half a year’s pay! God, what an unbelievable ass Charles Koch is. There are four very important things his new campaign is overlooking.

1. This isn’t how an international comparison of wealth works.

First of all, there are differences in local prices from place to place. It’s going to be a lot cheaper for my aunt and uncle in Kansas to buy beef than it is for someone living in a place where 80% of the population isn’t cattle. Second, there are differences in local currency valuations. I can go to Guatemala and buy a rug made of wild water buffalo hide or whatever, and it’ll cost me like thirty bucks. Here in San Francisco, thirty bucks gets me about four days’ worth of food. So sure, $34,000 might be able to purchase a bunch of luxury items if I took it to Guatemala, but I don’t live in Guatemala, Charles! I live here! And my money isn’t worth as much here!

2. This isn’t even how a domestic comparison of wealth works.

Not only that, but this comparison doesn’t even work right here in the United States. For example, the poorest county in America is Simpson County, MS. The cost of living in Simpson County for a family of four is $48,000–which, you may notice, is higher than $34,000. But let’s jump over to Wichita, KS, which is where the Kochs’ ad campaign launched. In Wichita, that same family would need $64,000. And here in San Francisco? You don’t even want to know. OK, I’ll tell you: $84,000.

3. Nobody in America aspires to be more well-off than starving children in Africa.

You see, Charles, here in San Francisco, a family of four requires an amount of money–just to make ends meet–that is nearly two and a half times your “global 1%” figure. And don’t give me any garbage about how they shouldn’t live in San Francisco if they can’t hack it. First of all, some people are born here. Second of all, that’s offensive and you don’t get to decide where people can live. Third of all, a city can’t function without multiple strata of workers. You can’t have tech assholes dreaming up stupid iPhone apps without janitors to unclog their toilets.

The bottom line is that while I may be making more money, in raw dollars, than some starving kid in Africa, I aspire to more than just having more money than starving kids in Africa. I aspire to be able to live a happy life. I aspire to not be slowly dying of anxiety because I don’t know if I’m going to make the rent. I aspire to not eating instant ramen noodles on a regular basis. I aspire to be able to cover my basic expenses and still have a little left over to treat myself every once in awhile. $34,000 a year? Not gonna do it.

4. All this means is that the world is even crappier and even less equal than we tend to assume.

So 99% of the world’s population earns less than $34,000 a year? Congratulations, Charles. All you’ve proven is that you’re even more evil and villainous than you immediately appear to be. Not only are you obnoxiously rich by U.S. standards, you’re Emperor Palpatine rich by global standards. You could feed the entire population for a decade and still have enough left over to buy the moon. You wicked, wicked little creature.