Valentine: It's not government's job to fix income gap

Friday, October 1, 2010

I was reading another Associated Press story where they're fretting over the so-called "income gap." It so troubles them that the rich keep getting richer while the poor, they claim, are getting poorer. But are they really?

In the early 1900s forty percent of the population was below the poverty level. That rate grew to around 45 percent during the Great Depression. LBJ declared war on poverty in 1964 but the poverty rate had been declining for at least 15 years on its own. By the time the government got involved the poverty rate had slipped from 30.2 percent in 1950 to 19 percent in 1964.

But something interesting began to happen. The poverty rate still dropped after the government set its sights on ending poverty but that rate of decline began to slow. In the 14 years leading up to the war on poverty the poverty rate was dropping at an annual rate of 0.8 percent. In the 14 years after the government began spending billions of dollars to "cure" the problem the poverty rate decline slowed to 0.5 percent.

We hit bottom in 1973 when the poverty rate dipped to 11.3 percent. It has never been that low since. It has risen and fallen but continually hovers between 12 and 14 percent. Despite some revisionist efforts to paint Reagan as cruel to the poor, the poverty rate dropped during his tenure in office from an inherited high of 15.2 percent to 12.8 percent when he left office.

The poverty rate right now is 14.3 percent. Compare that with a rate of 14.5 percent in 1994 and 14.8 percent in 1992. Not to mention a rate of 15.2 percent coming off the Carter error.

What's my point? My point is the poverty rate's been pretty steady for 45 years. That means that if the so-called income gap is getting wider it's because more people are moving from the middle class to the upper class instead of people sliding into poverty.

Naturally, with this economic downturn we're seeing the poverty rate tick up but it's nothing like it was in the early '80s and certainly nothing even close to the Great Depression, as every newspaper wants to claim.

The rich are getting richer, yes, but the middle class is moving up, too. That should be cause to celebrate. Instead the eggheads that study such things continually search for ways to make things more equitable. Sheldon Danziger, a public policy professor at the University of Michigan, tells AP that while we've developed policies to combat poverty we still haven't addressed income inequality. We're not supposed to, Sheldon! Income inequality is part of life. Some people are going to make more while others will make less. If those making less want to make more then they'll find a way to do what those who are making more are doing.

Instead the socialists who infest our college campuses think it's up to the government to redistribute the wealth. Notice they haven't volunteered their six-figure salaries to the proletariat.

We are a nation obsessed with class envy, something the Democrats have learned to exploit to the level of a fine art. They are masters at it. That's why this current debate over extending the Bush tax cuts is going exactly to plan. They don't want to pass anything so they can campaign on the platform that they wanted tax cuts for the middle class but those mean, ole Republicans insisted on tax cuts for their rich friends.

Misery may love company but Democrats love misery; especially when they can blame it on the Republicans.

Phil Valentine is an author and syndicated radio talk show host. His website is