Something has been bothering me for some time about the vocabulary conservatives and libertarians have been using to describe liberal economy policy. We hear it on radio from Boortz and Hannity and television from O’Reilly; we read it on blogs by Thomas Sowell and in newspaper columns by George F Will.
The term I refer to is “wealth redistribution,” called for throughout history by Marx, Lenin, Castro and Chavez. Liberals in America don’t use the term, knowing that it will bother conservatives and many moderates. Unfortunately, it is unconvincing to many, especially liberals, that such a beast as wealth distribution would be a bad thing.
After all, “wealth redistribution” is just taking money from the evil, awful “rich” and giving it to those poor, needy “less fortunate.”
Intended to relieve the wealthy of their fortunes and bring everyone to equality of outcomes, the system does precisely the opposite. In an effort to take from business and high-income individuals in the name of a “social contract” or “economic equality,” the system causes little more than a greater disparity between wealthy and poor, ensuring those who have continue to have; and those who have not end up with even less.
As liberal policies force an increase in taxation to support grossly excessive government spending, businesses are forced to lay-off low-level workers and mid-level individuals with non-speciallized skills in favor of the more valuable skilled labor and senior management. The unskilled laborers suffer worst of all as they lose their income, retirement and health benefits. Skilled laborers also suffer since they themselves also face higher taxes. The wealthy have some impact, certainly, but since they are wealthy–that is, they have extensive savings and personal assets–they do not have the great need for consistent income that the dispossessed workers have.
In attempting to equalize the economic outcome, the liberal programs create greater destitution, requiring in their minds even greater government intervention in the economy to ensure “economic equality.” This belief in the social contract requires more punishing taxes, higher minimum wages and ever greater government handouts resulting in more lay-offs by businesses large and small alike. This generates even more sympathy for the poor and greater hatred for those awful corporations and the evil rich.
The problem we face is that the term “wealth redistribution,” which conservatives are so eager to use to denounce liberal policies, sounds good to the displaced workers and their struggling families. Hearing the term engenders not anger, but support and sympathy for liberal policy makers. “It’s all the rich man’s fault” is the sentiment, if not the precise statement, of the masses and the politicians alike.
In demonizing the wealthy, however, liberals often find counter-intuitive allies. After all, there are very few taxes on actual wealth. Homes, the greatest asset most people own, have a very small tax burden. Motor vehicles and other assets similarly face little in the way of taxes. Taxing the product inventory of corporations, usually their largest asset, would be impractical at best and is counter-productive anyway. Rather than wealth, income is the primary source of revenue for the Federal and most of the state governments.
So the wealthy see that while income leads to wealth, they are already wealthy. As a person with wealth, they have power, access and influence. After all, the the greater the donations to lobbying groups, election campaigns and the bundling of funds (so much easier when you have spare time and wealthy friends) when campaign finance laws come into effect grants an individual greater access to those in political power. If others are able to earn great wealth through their income, they could gain similar access and influence. The balance of power among elites changes, and individual influence is reduced.
So the wealthy, personified most recently by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates by also by George Soros and hundreds of Hollywood celebrities, take on the magnanimous role of the “Advocate for the Common People.” From their posiition of wealth, they argue for policies that tax the rich–that is, those whose incomes are higher than average–all in the knowledge that it limits those who can achieve to the level that they themselves have reached. Oprah and Whoopi both endorsed Barack Obama. So did Robert DeNiro, Chris Rock and Scarlett Johansson. John Grissham, Magic Johnson, Ted Danson and Ron Howard all campaigned for Hillary Clinton during the primaries.
Certainly John McCain and other conservatives got some celebrity support, such as Fraiser star Kelsey Grammar supporting both George W. Bush and McCain, but the level of celebrity and wealthy support for liberal politicians is much greater. Indeed, Obama received millions of dollars in direct and bundled donations from wealthy donors and had celebrities going door-to-door in his support. Why? Why would hard-working businessmen and celebrities want to create a society where earning great wealth is impossible?
Simply put, they already have wealth. Taking more of what they earn has a significantly lesser impact upon their everyday life than it does the majority of rest of us, even though their tax rate is higher. Meanwhile, the access and influence of the wealthy is secure, with new access limited to those few individuals who can break through the tax barrier to earn great masses of wealth.
My proposal for you conservative and libertarian bloggers, columnists, radio hosts and television commentators is to stop using the term “wealth redistribution.” This term endears liberal politics to the masses, rather than informing them of the counter-productive nature of liberal policy.
I suggest the term “manufacturing poverty.” It ably describes what liberal policy does and carries the harsh connotation of destructive politics. While liberals have found a way to defend the concept of “wealth distribution” by calling for “fairness,” it will be much more difficult to defend the idea of creating greater masses of poor individuals dependent upon government handouts.
We need to adjust to changing times. Today, liberals obfuscate the truth and make bad ideas and terminology sound good. If nothing else, changing our vocabulary to harsher, more descriptive terms with negative definitions more difficult to obscure will leave liberals wondering how to respond and perhaps even changing the political discourse from one of distortion of basic economic principles to an open discussion of real economics.