Down With the Rich!

A piece in today’s Washington Post by James Wilson titled “Angry About Inequality? Don’t Blame the Rich” spiked my attention to the ongoing national discussion these days, partly brought on by Mitt Romney’s detractors, about wealth and its role in America. I think it’s a healthy conversation that will ultimately affirm America’s attitude towards the value of wealth and the important role it plays in maintaining a healthy, innovative economy. The result will continue to starkly differentiate the United States from Europe, where a lack of entrepreneurial spirit and boiling unrest between the rich and poor threaten economic stability and recovery.

While I hold no ill will towards the wealthy, I do worry about undeniable trends showing the growing gap between the rich and the poor and the disturbing statistics that show certain segments of the population becoming trapped in a cycle of poverty. That entrapment, on an individual level, denies the person the dignity of having a job and the hope for a better future. On a larger cultural level, the cycle of poverty threatens to sow resentment and unrest, potentially leading to negative effects for the entire country, as seen by the unfortunate riots seen over the past years across TV screens from Greece, France, and the UK.

So, why aren’t more politicians focusing on defeating the cycle of poverty instead of demonizing the rich? Are their proposals like millionaire taxes aimed more at punishing a certain segment of the population versus aiding the segment that needs it most? Do they really believe that the tens of millions of dollars collected in new taxes on the super-rich will directly affect the unarguable problem of poverty? Or is this more of an effort to get the poor and their alleged allies like labor unions and community activist organizations to reelect them? If Mitt Romney had paid $5 million more in taxes last year, would the poor be better off? Seems a bit disingenuous to me.

For politicians, it’s easier to attack the rich than to have an uncomfortable discussion on what actually causes and perpetuates poverty in America. How would the teacher’s unions that turn out millions of votes and transfer millions of dollars to Democrats react when they’re told that America’s failing schools, especially in the inner-cities, should be a priority rather than protecting the pay and pensions of some lousy teachers? How would a black church react when confronted with the fact that a 70% illegitimate birth rate is really harmful for the development of successful children? How would a group of disadvantaged rural voters react when told that sometimes you just have to move on from an economically dead area if you want to move up the ladder, even if that means leaving the plot of land that one’s family has manned since early America?

If Democrats and even Republicans want to have an ounce of credibility when it comes to leveling the playing field or pulling Americans out of the cycle of poverty, they need to be willing to have conversations that will make these groups yell and scream and remove the incentives that the government creates to satisfy these groups in the posh names of diversity, cultural preservation, and fairness.

In the mean time, stop attacking those who have made something of themselves and instead encourage them to take a moral interest in aiding those who have been less fortunate, whether it be through charitable giving to newfangled groups that have successfully found ingenious ways to combat the cycle of poverty, or through donating time and personal skills. Because if anything has been shown to be true over the past decades and centuries, it’s not the government that most often alters cycles, but selfless people and organizations like Teach for America, the Pine Street Inn, and Habitat for Humanity.