The gap between rich and poor: Who cares?
Posted by sanityinjection on March 21, 2009
You don’t have to delve too far in the media to find some self-important journalist or politician pontificating that “the gap between the richest and the poorest in our society is greater than it has ever been.” They say it like it’s a terrible, terrible thing and we should all be ashamed.
But consider: Why is it that the gap is getting bigger? There can only be three answers: Either the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, or both.
Well, until the recent recession, it has certainly been true that the rich were getting richer. But were the poor getting poorer? Not at all. Compare the standard of living of someone at the federal poverty level to what it was twenty, fifty, 75 years ago and there’s no question the poor are better off today. Heck, even homeless people have shelters, which admittedly aren’t great places to be, but they’re a great improvement over dying of exposure.
So the question is: Is it a bad thing for the rich to get richer? Ask yourself this question: How does it affect my life negatively if a rich person makes $1 million a year instead of $750,000? Isn’t the more important question for me whether it is easier or harder to put food on my table and send my kids to college? If my ability to do that is improving, why on earth should I care if a rich person is getting rich even faster? How does that hurt me?
The answer is, it boils down to sour grapes. People don’t like the idea that someone else is prospering faster and greater than they are. But life is not a zero-sum game. In fact, it’s more often the case that a rising tide lifts all boats, because the rich invest money in our economy that helps create jobs and bring new technologies into our lives. The government didn’t give you TiVo, rich people did.
Poor people continue to come here to America because it’s better to be poor here than most other places in the world. So please, let’s have an end to this nonsense about “the gap between rich and poor”.