INCOME INEQUALITY

Income inequality and how to resolve it has become a hot button political, social and economic issue. (Note, in this blog I am not referring to the truly needy who are not able to provide for themselves, but, rather, those who could but are content to have the government provide cradle to grave benefits for them.) Liberals espouse that the haves should give to the have-nots to balance out wealth, or, better yet, the government should take from the haves and give to the have-nots. They have spent the last five years advancing this philosophy. Why should the rich have more income and wealth than the poor? It’s not fair. Americans are all equal, right?

The problem with this philosophy is similar to that of many liberal ideas – it sounds good in theory, but it is impractical, if not downright ludicrous. For example, taken to its extreme, the government would transfer a goodly portion of Denzel Washington’s income and wealth accrued from acting to other less accomplished and less famous actors and actresses. Mr. Washington would no longer be entitled to a seven-figure fee for a movie while less famous and accomplished actors and actresses earn a fraction of that amount. Similarly, Lebron James, “50 Cent” and Lady Gaga should transfer a portion of their income and wealth to other basketball players, rappers and singers to balance out any disparities, and the accountant, plumber or salesman who works 60-hour weeks because he is ambitious and wants to get ahead should nonetheless transfer some of his money to others who choose to relax at home with their families and/or pursue “hobbies.”

The obvious point of the above is to denote that Americans should focus on equality of OPPORTUNITY, not equality of INCOME AND WEALTH. Society does not owe everyone cradle to grave benefits; what it does owe them is an equal opportunity to improve themselves, for example, through education and antidiscrimination laws in employment. Our system of capitalism, self-reliance, and free enterprise should provide the means and the tools to advance, not a guarantee of advancement. The rest is up to the individual. Not to sound callous, but there will always be people who are smarter, more talented and more ambitious than others. Those people will do better. It’s as simple as that.

I would have liked to be a major league shortstop, but I didn’t have the talent. I would have liked to be a famous singer, but I didn’t have the voice. I would have liked to play in the NBA, but I am 5’11’, not 6’11”. Life is not always fair, but you do your best to maximize your talents. Isn’t that what we tell our kids? Just do your best. If you can’t be a major league baseball player, be the best carpenter, accountant or salesman you can be.

The key is to take advantage of what society provides to you. If one is born into a poor family, rather than lamenting your lot in life and demanding that society provide a certain standard of living for you, take advantage of the free education provided, earn a scholarship to college and raise yourself up. Studies have shown that the level of one’s education is the single greatest determinant of one’s success.

Our society is not like the Indian Caste system or the lords and serf system in the Middle Ages. People can and do move up (or down). Just be happy that you were born in the US, where opportunities abound, rather than in a third-world country where if you’re born poor, you stay poor, and if you’re a female, you’re a second class citizen or worse.

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

My advice and belief is don’t accept and bemoan your status in life. Don’t sit around and wait for others or the government to provide for you. Don’t have a sense of entitlement. The world does not owe you a living, just the opportunity for you to earn one. Take advantage of the opportunities that the US provides all of its citizens, and work your way up. Many billionaires started out very modestly, for example, Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). The much maligned top 1% is not static; people are constantly moving up and down depending on changes in their circumstances.

Those who preach self-reliance are on the right side of this issue. It is the time-honored American way. It has served us well for 250 years. I believe that most people want to work and improve themselves; they don’t want government handouts. They just need the government to provide the basic infrastructure and opportunity. I predict that a new Administration with a more traditional economic and social philosophy will do just that.

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