Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hard Work and Wealth Distribution

I have been listening to the conversation in the national political dialogue about "redistribution of wealth". Simply, Barack Obama asserts that the people who fall around the center of the bell curve of income---up to $ 250,000 annually should have less of their money paid in taxes while people above that threshold pay more. The Republican position is that it is unfair to take away people's hard earned money and that doing so reduces the money invested in business which is what makes the economy grow. Evidence suggests that neither of these positions are as straightforward as the candidates would like us to believe. And I think that volumes of discussion of the subject provide enough fodder to enflame the opinionated. One thing about the Republican litany though seems troubling to me. I have heard several supporters of this position state that they don't think it's right for anyone to take away their money to give to someone else because they "worked hard" to get it. One belief implied in that statement is that people who don't have money just don't work hard. If they did, they could have more. This position carries with it a blindness to the reality that many many people work hard, but not all make lots of money. To some extent, success at making money is dependent on factors that are not in the hands of the hard worker. Economic forces, availability of resources, physical health, misjudgements of the marketplace, storms and weather are all factors that can intrude to bring the hard worker down. I hear in the voices of the righteous saying 'I worked hard for my money' a lack of self-scrutiny and awareness that fortune has smiled on them. That narrow view makes it easier to say and believe that those who don't have money just' don't work hard'.
My observation of real life people I know is that the opposite is true; most people do work hard and not all because they intend to have lots of money. Additionally, I never hear acknowledgement from the "hard workers with money" of some of the things that made it possible for them to succeed. Does the highway system transport their goods, raw materials, sales force? Do they benefit from meteorological reports and studies? Is there data available from the Census Bureau that helps them to know where their business will thrive? Do regulations insure that they won't suffer from fraud or unfair competition? Do school training programs provide them with qualified workers? The list goes on. There are things that are central to having the ability to make money that are paid for out of the public purse. Those who have more money have benefited from those 'public goods' more than the poor sucker working two gas station jobs to feed his family. And so it doesn't seem unfair--nor socialist--to expect them as gets more to pay more.

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