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The Koch Brothers Are Waging War Against the Poor

(Photo: Sue Peacock / Flickr)

Charles Koch thinks he has the solution to America’s income inequality problem, and what a large problem it is.

We have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income in this country since the 1920’s.

Right now, the wealthiest 400 Americans own more wealth than the entire bottom-half of the country, and the six heirs to the great Wal-Mart fortune own more wealth than the bottom 30 percent of Americans.

The top 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the entire nation’s wealth, while the bottom 60 percent owns less than 2 percent, and the bottom 40 percent of all Americans own just .3 percent of the nation’s wealth.

Since 1979, after-tax income for the top 1% of Americans is up 281%, while it’s only up 16% and 25% for the bottom-fifth and middle-fifth of Americans respectively.

And, according to the Economic Policy Institute, CEO pay spiked 725 percent between 1978 and 2011, while worker pay rose just 5.7 percent during the same time.

It’s clear that income inequality is a major problem in America, and that something needs to be done right now to fix it.

That’s where Koch comes in.

The conservative mogul who is worth over $43 billion says that eliminating the minimum wage is a solution to America’s poverty woes.

On Wednesday, the Charles Koch Foundation launched a $200,000 media blitz in Wichita, Kansas, Koch’s home state, saying that the minimum wage is THE major obstacle to economic growth in America.

There is no credible information or data that backs up Koch’s claims that the minimum wage impedes economic growth, and that doing away with it would solve any of our problems.

In fact, the data says otherwise.

In a letter released by the Chicago Federal Reserve, Economists Daniel Aaronson and Eric French show that raising the federal minimum wage by $1.75 to $9 an hour would increase household spending by around $48 billion the next year, and everybody knows that economies are driven by demand, also known as consumer spending.

The fact is that doing away with the minimum wage will do absolutely nothing to reduce the extraordinary levels of poverty and income inequality in this country. So what will?

First, contrary to what Republicans in Washington love to argue, we need to strengthen and expand social safety net programs, not do away with them.

Americans who are living on the edge need some bootstraps to pull themselves up by.

Programs like Medicaid and food stamps are essential because they provide those bootstraps and help them get back on their feet.

Next, we must invest more into education, so young people can succeed when they enter the workplace.

Right now, the United States ranks 17th in the world among developed countries when it comes to overall education, and 25th in math and science. That sucks.

We also need to take on the loopholes that make our tax system favor the rich, and roll back the Reagan tax cuts.

America’s wealthiest citizens must pay their fair share, and do their part to support the American economy, rather than just living off the backs of the working class.

We also need to take an axe to all the corporate loopholes in our tax code, put there by lobbyists and corporate shills in Congress.

To make this work, this nation’s trade policies have to change.

No more so-called free trade deals like NAFTA, CAFTA, SHAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. Giant transnational corporations should not have the right or the power to move our jobs overseas, and it’s insane that our tax code is encouraging them to do that.

Finally, any company whose business model depends on screwing their workers with pay that is so low that those workers qualify for food stamps and Medicaid should be put out of business.

If we just set the minimum wage to what it was in 1968, $10.25 in today’s dollars, we begin the process rebuilding our middle-class.

Charles Koch inherited much of his money from his daddy, Fred. He’s never known what it’s like to run a household budget on the minimum wage. Taking wage policy advice from Charles Koch is like taking advice on how to run a neighborhood watch program from George Zimmerman.

When it comes to the Koch brothers lecturing us about how the working poor should be paid, we all need to take Nancy Reagan’s advice and “just say no.”

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