From childhood, we can perhaps recall incidents from the sandbox or kindergarten playground when we accused someone of being unfair or greedy. Most of us grew out of such immature, envious behavior and accepted that life can be sometimes unfair.
Some individuals, however, never let go of such childish thinking and continue to whine about various forms of perceived inequality. Among these individuals are the 20-plus Socialist Democrat presidential candidates; they will be returning to the sandbox to spew out ad nauseam the progressive cliché of wealth inequality. Far-Left liberals reject any alternative point of view in the rare event that they are even willing to debate.
The liberal economics playbook radiates fiscal illiteracy, scorn for the wealthy, and Orwellian doublespeak. For example, if the Trump economy was sluggish, the Democrat Party would rabidly demand more government spending to alleviate unemployment and poverty. Interestingly, however, when the US economy is booming — as it has been under Trump administration — the same progressives nonetheless demand fiscal transfer policies and higher taxes to support those who perhaps have unable to share in the success.
Liberals Scorn High Achievers
One might ponder why would the American Left always seek more government spending and taxes on higher-income earners? A simplistic explanation suggests that the intellectual climate in the US has become anti-wealth and anti-success. According to the conventional Liberal narrative that political hacks such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (themselves millionaires) preach to younger generations, wealth represents either extreme luck or abuse of power instead of skill, dedication, or effort. Yet neither statistics, philosophy, nor common sense support their myopic perspective.
Parenthetically, as the New Right Network previously observed, Democrats and Socialists target anyone for income redistribution who is middle class or above and is a productive, law-abiding member of society. In other words, anyone who has a real job. Moreover, the ultra-rich, many of whom are Democrats, often set up elaborate tax shelters to minimize what they have to fork over to Uncle Sam.
Shaky Statistics in Wealth Inequality Debates
We’ve all heard the grotesque factoid about the wealthiest 1% owning more assets than all the rest of us put together and the danger of such concentration of financial power. It is specially troubling is to see such relatively respectable sources claiming no political agenda behind their research in publishing such questionable information.
Each year, for example, Oxfam a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations based out of Great Britain, publishes statistical research about worsening wealth inequality. In the last Davos Economic Forum, Oxfam argued that the wealthiest 62 individuals in the world own more wealth than the poorest 3.6 billion. At face value, such numbers look troublesome, but there’s more to it, as discussed below. Make no mistake about it, though; Oxfam intends to open the Overton window to legislate punitive public policies on wealth.
First, Oxfam’s widely presented research is incomplete. Rather than analyzing wealth development data, for example, from the past century or even 50 years, Oxfam presents wealth divergence from the past 25 years. Such a narrow, inconclusive view ignores the fact that living standards in the past 50 years — thanks to capitalism — have converged and improved immensely across the globe.
Secondly, Oxfam defines net wealth (assets/debt) as the guiding factor in determining inequality. However, this is a rather flawed construct. According to Oxfam’s model, a recent Ivy League graduate buried in student debt and with minimal tangible assets has no net wealth, putting him on the same line with, for example, an average farmer in Africa who might own farm animals as tangible assets. Can we be intellectually honest and argue that a recent college graduate has or will have worse standard of living than a farmer in Africa? Apparently, Oxfam believes so. This faulty analysis provides political activists with propaganda for opportunistic campaigning instead of sound economic knowledge.
Income Mobility is the American Dream
Furthermore, Oxfam’s claim ignores income bracket mobility, which in the US is far from stagnant or static. In a 2014 Op-Ed in the the New York Times, Univ. of Washington Prof. Mark Rank presented data from Cornell Univ. Prof. Thomas Hirschl that revealed how 12 percent of the U.S population will be in the top one percent bracket for at least a year. Also, 39 percent will be part of the wealthiest five percent, 56 percent will find themselves in the top 10 percent income group, and 73 percent well enter the top 20 percent for at least one year.
“The majority of Americans will experience at least one year of affluence at some point during their working careers…One of the reasons for such fluidity at the top is that, over sufficiently long periods of time, most American households go through a wide range of economic experiences, both positive and negative…Ultimately, this information casts serious doubt on the notion of a rigid class structure in the United States based upon income. It suggests that the United States is indeed a land of opportunity, that the American dream is still possible — but that it is also a land of widespread poverty,” the Times editorial claimed.
If over half of the people in the bottom of income move up to the higher income bracket and standards of living has vastly improved for every income group in the U.S, why does it matter if one group experiences erratically faster wealth accumulation than others? Rather than debating whether somebody really needs a new boat or another vacation home, we must put aside envy-driven hyperbole and focus on equality of opportunity instead. With this approach, however, the Left’s entire political narrative dies off.
Forced Altruism is Not Charity
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and economist Paul Krugman, among many others, go along with Bernie Sanders’ insistence that the wealthiest one percent are the main source of misery for others. Even if we ignore that Warren, Sanders, and Krugman are full-fledged members of the one percent as noted above, we still cannot take their fundamental premises seriously.
It’s as if the far-Left possess a divine benchmark for measuring what and how much is enough for others. Yes, greed exists. Why is it considered greedy to want to keep your money, but not greedy for the radical Left to confiscate it?
Do the loudest critics of wealth inequality really care about the poor or are they motivated by something far more disgusting such as raw political power? The champions of redistributionism lead a flock of people so severely blinded by hate and scorn that they support any policy as long as the legislation punishes those who are better off than them.
Punishing Success Helps No One
They forget that when a rich person buys a luxury car, puts a huge addition on a house, or purchases a yacht, it leads to job creation. What would millions of middle-class workers involved in these industries think when they are laid off because progressive politicians have determined that it is immoral to purchase such “opulent” items?
Unfortunately, young (and not so young) voters with “Feel the Bern” stickers seem unwilling to process the unintended consequences of their leaders’ policies. Nor can they always seem to distinguish facts from fiction during wealth inequality discussions. Rather than asking themselves “what should I do in order to reach the one percent?,” more voters seem to wonder, “how can we raid the bank accounts of the wealthy?” This is essentially Communism. It is precisely what the radical Democrat Party wants to plant in the minds of next-generation voters.
Remember to vote accordingly.
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Henri Erti is a writer for NRN. Born in former USSR Estonia, he escaped communism to neighboring Finland where he learned first hand about the atrophying effects of socialism. Erti studied international business in Brevard College (NC) and completed graduate studies in international political economy at Dubrovnik International University (Croatia).