If you would like proof of just how intellectually bankrupt the American left is today, I recommend reading Nicholas Kristof’s column in this morning’s New York Times. It is about “inequality” and the rising separation between the incomes of the very, very rich and the incomes of the middle class and the poor.
It starts off with a scare “statistic” that the total Wall Street bonus pool last year was roughly twice the size of “the total annual earnings of all Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage.” But as his link shows, this is a farrago of statistical assumptions and incomplete data. But it advances the agenda and so he uses it.
Then he plunges into anecdote:
I overheard one billionaire — who had gotten his start in life by inheriting a fortune — discuss with another the problem of lazy Americans who were trying to free ride on the rest,” [Joseph] Stiglitz [a Nobel-Prize winning economist] writes. “Soon thereafter, they seamlessly transitioned into a discussion of tax shelters.
Well, I’ve heard many liberals seamlessly transition from lecturing me on my Scrooge-like indifference to the fate of the poor and downtrodden to deciding which $100-a-cover restaurant to have lunch at.
He then, inevitably, lays the blames at the feet of the country as a whole:
We as a nation have chosen to prioritize tax shelters over minimum wages, subsidies for private jets over robust services for children to break the cycle of poverty. And the political conversation is often not about free rides by corporations, but about free rides by the impoverished.
No, it was the political class, sucking up to the rich in exchange for campaign donations that chose to prioritize private jets over kids. Kids don’t make political contributions. Private jet owners get their phone calls to members of Congress returned within the hour.
Then he begs the question of the origin in the recent rise in income inequality. (To a large extent, it’s the extraordinary result of the digital revolution of the last forty years and the enormous number of capital-disintensive economic niches that have been opened by the microprocessor. When Twitter went public in November 2013, it created thousands of instant millionaires. That same year, an Australian 18-year-old sold an app he had created to Yahoo—for $30 million.) And he begs the question of inequality’s pernicious effects. (Is there really something terrible about the rich getting much richer, as long as the less rich are not getting any poorer, and indeed are seeing their standards of living rising over the long term, thanks to such things as Walmart, Amazon, iPhones, GPS, etc.?)
Finally he comes up with a list of possible ways to correct what might very well not need correcting, but would definitely put more money into the hands of the political class that Kristof represents (to be used, of course, strictly for the good of the poor and the downtrodden). Among these are: More government vigilance regarding monopolies and competition, strong trade unions, public-sector jobs at the minimum wage for such things as elderly care (has he checked with the unions for their opinion on this?), restrain pay at the highest levels (i.e. maximum-wage legislation), and a personal income tax that tops out at 65 percent.
Is there a single idea in there that post dates FDR, who died 70 years ago in a completely different economic universe? Indeed, most of them antedate the 20th century. Steeply progressive income taxes are straight out of the Communist Manifesto, published in 1848.
So here’s my list of ideas to lower the income inequality between rich and poor. They would actually help everyone except the political class:
Break up government monopolies, such as Medicare, the Veterans Administration, and, most important public school systems. Introducing competition into these areas of the economy is vital to improving them, because competition, and competition alone, produces hard work and innovation. Monopolies—private and governmental—are always fat, dumb, lazy, and devoted to maintaining the monopoly. The shortest route to prosperity for the poor and downtrodden is a good education and the inculcation of good work habits. They don’t get that today and liberals don’t give a damn. (One of the first things President Obama tried to do as president was end the school voucher program in Washington, D.C., as a thank you to the teachers unions, while sending his two daughters to a very expensive, and very good, private school: welcome to modern-day liberalism).
Introduce a flat tax, so that the private jet owners of the world can’t finagle special deals with their congressional pals.
Abolish the corporate income tax. I wrote about the extraordinary benefits of doing this in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago. At least 90 percent of the tax fiddles and crony-capitalism government favors are hidden in the corporate income tax. Get rid of it and 60,000 lobbyists in Washington would need to go out and get wealth-creating jobs. Do you think private jet owners own their private jets personally? Of course not, their corporations own them and get a slew of deductions thereby.
Modern-day liberalism is about talking about helping the poor and downtrodden, while espousing policies that will only help the narrow and ever-more privileged elite of which liberals are the most vocal supporters.