It always ticks me off when politicians claim that something is “unfair.”
In his documentary “Inequality For All,” former Labor Secretary Robert Reich proclaims that the gap between the rich and the middle class has widened. Okay, but I don’t see how that’s unfair.
Over the past few years, Kanye West has gotten significantly richer while I have not. And that makes sense, because Kanye never pays me $1.29 to read my column. But I have paid him $1.29 plenty of times for his awesome songs. Under the circumstances, it would be outrageously unfair if Kanye weren’t richer than me.
What ticks me off even more is when politicians proclaim that rich people aren’t paying their fair share of taxes.
It seems to me that if every person paid the exact same amount of money in taxes, THAT would be fair. If I am paying $10,000 a year in taxes, Kanye West should have to pay $10,000 if they really want everything to be fair.
But obviously that’s a lousy system. Rich people should and always will pay more.
I just wish politicians would be honest and say: “Hey rich people, you have to pay more than your fair share. That’s because I have power and you have money. And I get more power the more money I take from you. So, give me your money or else there will be trouble.” That’s the way they do it in Russia, I think.
My point is: if you tell me that the rich are getting richer, I don’t really care. I’ll only care if you tell me why that’s bad for the economy in general. That’s where “Inequality For All” gets interesting.
Reich makes a convincing argument that the increasing gap between the rich and the middle class is bad for everybody.
Our economy is driven, above all, by consumer spending. According to Reich, shopping and consumption is the force that creates jobs, prosperity, and economic expansion.
These days a worker makes $40,000 and the CEO of his company makes $40 million. This wouldn’t be a problem if the CEO spent all $40 million at American stores. It wouldn’t be an issue if the rich guy bought 100 pairs of Skechers per year or ate out at 300 restaurants per day.
But of course he doesn’t. Those extra wages that the CEO can’t spend pile up unproductively. Instead of spending their money, the rich put it in the stock market and get wealthy.
And that’s the basic story of the 21st Century: the investor class has thrived, the middle class has languished, and the economy as a whole has stagnated.
Robert Reich is certainly a left-winger. But his arguments aren’t based on ideology or jealousy. He genuinely believes that we’ll all be better off in the long run if we empower trade unions, regulate Wall Street more strictly, and raise taxes on the rich.
Part of me is convinced that Robert Reich is right. Although part of me still feels that Kanye West earned all of his money and has every right to keep it.