Friday, December 28, 2012

"INCOME INEQUALITY" AND OTHER BOOGEYMEN

(Warning: this is where I talk like a Republican. All bleeding hearts should prepare to apply a tourniquet.)

If you go around the horn on any liberal talk show, at least one of the participants will point out, as the greatest problem in our Republic, "income inequality." Really?  That's your issue?

Let's be clear. If we are talking about the difference in income between a man and a woman working for the same employer and doing the same job, you've got my attention. If you are talking about a Filipino and a white guy doing the same job for the same employer, then a substantial inequality between them gets my human rights juices flowing.

On the other hand, if "income inequality," simply means that some folks in some families in our great land make different amounts of money from one another and enjoy different property holdings, you're now officially boring me. Folks, our citizens have different amounts of education, different amounts of ambition, different amounts of energy, different amounts of imagination, different amounts of courage differences in hand/eye coordination, differences in spatial skills and even differences in geographic advantages (how many oceanographers you know from North Dakota?).

When "income inequality" is trotted out as a negative thing, the assumption is that the ideal situation would be for all of us to make about the same amount of money or to own about the same amount of property. That theory has been tried and it seems to have a couple of small hiccups in it


If the talent of one American enables him to invent Flubber and his grade school classmate's talents direct him to trimming other people's hedges for pay, the Flubber guy is going to make more money simply because he adds more to the societal pot. What on earth is wrong with that?

The inequality in our country that is heartbreaking is not income inequality. It is educational inequality. It is neighborhood safety inequality. Is the inequality that allows one kid to have two loving nurturing, interested parents and the next kid a runaway, absentee father and addict mother. In short, it is "opportunity inequality." When that kid with the poor opportunity does not succeed, we all lose. That is not a matter of income inequality. That is a matter of societal loss.

Funny thing is that, when the extreme lefties scream about the evils of "income inequality," the conservatives pretty much cower or shut up. On this one the righties have a perfectly valid argument. Income inequality has happened because of the shortage of opportunity for some and not because of some governmental policy to make the rich richer. 

There is nothing wrong with income inequality as long as the difference in income simply reflects free will choices made by the people on the bottom of the income comparison. 

There cannot be a meaningful discussion of income inequality without there being a parallel discussion of equality of energy, intellect, creativity and simple gumption.  

I wish the folks on the left would quit rattling this term off. On the other hand, I wish my conservative friends would stand up for meaningful capitalism at is as it is practiced in the United States.  Income inequality is only bad to the extent that it is tied to systemic opportunity inequality. 

4 Comments:

At 1:53 PM, January 08, 2013, Blogger UMRBlog said...

This Comment came in on FB from my Nephew. Since I don't do politics on FB, I moved it here and think it is extremely useful and, in a lot of ways, an improvement on my original post.


Your lefty nephew living in Detroit feels compelled to disagree.

Ambition and intelligence are probably attributes distributed widely across the many groups of people in the United States. Education and opportunity, however, are closely correlated to wealth and our laws are set up to maintain the status quo and discourage class and social mobility.

Our laws as written and enforced discourage the formation of labor unions. Our tax code favors capital over labor and encourages family dynasties with the inheritance tax. We no longer adequately fund education forcing students to incur great debt to get a college education and then make that debt non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Once our kids graduate from college, too many of them are unable to secure a job that allows them to service their student loans while maintaining a decent standard of living. The fiscal and monetary policy of our nation is overly concerned with inflation, which primarily benefits note holders and other holders of investments with fixed rates of return, at the expense of employment which largely benefits the lower and middle classes. After a housing bubble, the banks that created the mess and almost brought down the global economy are rewarded for their actions while hardworking homeowners who faithfully made payments on their mortgages were provided scant relief after crashing home values wiped out their primary source of wealth. Since the early 1970s the American worker has become dramatically more productive yet wage growth has remained stagnant - except for the 1% whose income has grown - exponentially.

Since Ronald Reagan, through government policies promoted by and passed for the rich and powerful, we have fostered a system that favors the 1% at the expense of everyone else. With a decidedly corpratist SCOTUS we have allowed an already distorted political system to be further corrupted by unlimited campaign spending. That, combined with a legislative and administrative rule making system that HEAVILY favors the well connected has created a government that is not responsive to the needs of its citizens and fails to invest in our infrastructure to promote future growth.

If something tantamount to a second revolution does not occur - soon - something which refocuses our society toward the needs of the many - American "exceptionalism" may soon be just a distant memory. Unfortunately our FBI - through its infiltration of movements like Occupy actively works to discourage any social change that would threaten the status quo.

 
At 8:43 PM, January 09, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are correct about our laws. They allow the government to take from one person/group, to benefit another person/group. Look no further than your uncle's home state. The pension funds have been raided to pay for "entitlements" or give-aways, for decades, for both sides of the aisle. monies from other programs are used similarly.
Your inference to college students and their plight is a direct result of union influence. Lower pay or fewer raises are traded for better, more costly benefits, and larger more favorable pensions, all being paid for by, guess who? The same goes for the primary schools and teachers/support staff.
I do feel your pain, but nothing can be done that won't adversely affect the common man/taxpayer of the middle class. He can't pass the buck.

 
At 8:01 PM, January 22, 2013, Anonymous annonymoose said...

Yeah, a government that favors the lazy and unmotivated will cure our ills. Keep on truckin' there, Detro-it boy!

 
At 11:33 AM, April 09, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this is where to post this, but it is as close to my concerns as I've seen.

I am on disability due to many "invisible" health related issues. Therefore, people that do not know me think I am among the "lazy and unmotivated" class of people. This angers me and hurts my feelings. I would love to be able to go back to work. I would love to be able to get a decent and livable salary.

I am college educated and was a teacher for several years in a prestigious college prep high school. I then had to move to a different town and taught in a rural school. I was let go because I sat on a stool to teach instead of stand in front of the class. I subbed for a few years after that until it was too difficult. I miss teaching so much.

But what upsets me is the freeze on disability and Social Security or the 1% COLA raises while the Congress and Senate give themselves large raises. Why don't they give themselves the small increase and us the 3%? This year our increase was $35 but they increased Medicare by $15 a month. I would have taken the 1% of a congressman making around $200,000.

In case you are wondering, my income today is 1/2 of what I was earning as a draftsman at Gardner Denver in 1978. And I considered myself very comfortable back then, buying a house and a car. (Reganomics got me then so I went back to college)

I, too, am a Democrat, but I do not agree with everything Obama is doing. But while I am living on a fixed income, I ask you, someone who makes millions, would they really miss the tax he is proposing? Do people really need that much money to living on? I cannot fathom what I would do with that much money. There is just so much you can buy and places you can travel. One time, just for fun, I made a list of what I would do if I won the lottery. After giving a bunch to the church and setting up trusts for the grandkids and paying off my kids' and brother's homes, I still barely came up with things amounting to an additional $2 million. And I had a big list.

I guess I am done. Maybe I made sense, maybe not. At least I got some things off my chest. Thank you.

 

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