The left is getting into crazy territory with its recent drive to condemn and fight “inequality.” Of course, inequality is unavoidable. Not everyone is equally talented, equal advantaged, equally hard working, or equally lucky. These contribute to varying life outcomes. And, truthfully, I do not believe most Americans begrudge success. That is, America has mostly rejected the Sixties’ ethos of wanting to “tax the rich feed the poor until there are no rich no more.”
They do believe that people on really hard times deserve a social safety net focused on getting them back to work or helping them navigate and unexpected tragedy. They also want and find increasingly elusive the kind of life and upward mobility most of their parents had. There is a lot of downward mobility these days through a combination of declining blue collar employment, widespread “debt,” global competition, an increasing tax burden, inflation, the destruction of the housing bubble, and the like. This is worrisome for the country and for those individual who are so affected. So they want to see policies that are “pro middle class” and “pro mobility,” but it’s not like they sit around and begrudge the local car lot owner, inventor, or pro athlete who makes millions. It’s not that others have more that is the problem or that people want to end. Most Americans are very generous souls, happy to congratulate others on their successes. Our problem is that the system is making the middle class lifestyle (i.e., home, able to send kids to college, some stability and security, a yearly vacation, etc.) less and less in reach. It’s that young people who actually do try to get ahead find themselves saddled by every imaginable financial burden from debt and taxes to a rising cost of living.
Most Americans find it beneath them to get something for nothing; they’d be embarrassed to envy or prevent their neighbor’s success. But they do rightly worry that the system seems rigged and that the big banks and Wall Street gamblers and welfare queens play by one set of rules, complete with welfare bailouts when they fail, while their own job-hunting and entrepreneurial endeavors are pretty much on them. This is demoralizing, but the problem is not “inequality,” and the solution is not wealth redistribution to “fight inequality.” It’s rather to create the rules and environment for wealth creation, to grow the pie, which will always be unequal. If it grows, that it grows more for you does not hurt me, of course. It’s what economists call “Pareto Optimal.”
Of course, those rules mostly involve benign inaction: lower taxes, lower spending, sound government finances, reduced regulatory burdens, and the like. That set of policies is not very sexy and does not accrue much power to the Barack Obamas and Bill De Blasios of the world. But it works. It worked for the first 200 years or so of our country’s history and, when coupled with lower immigration and an economy where smart people focused on making useful things, we saw a real significant rise in wealth during the post World War II era up through 1990 or so.
That should be the Republican message: a commitment to wealth creation across the board. But the dependent classes are growing fast and swamping the productive half of the country. If we’re not careful, we’ll just end up being the helots in service to the speculating fat cats and the nonworking poor, and even the democratic system will give us no means of asserting our interests.
But this “inequality” whining is communist bullshit. No one cares about it, unless they’re a demented, hateful, angry loser, or a power-hungry charlatan like Obama. We all just want to get rich or at least comfortable ourselves. That’s all.