An analysis of the politics of rich and poor

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An analysis of the politics of rich and poor

Ryan Messmore Winter After a financial crisis, a deep recession, and a stalled recovery, it should be no surprise that poverty in America is on the rise. This is a troubling figure, and it should certainly move us to act to help the poor as we strive to grow the economy.

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But efforts to address poverty in America are frequently derailed by misguided ideology — in particular, by the notion that poverty is best understood through the lens of inequality. Far too often, policymakers succumb to the argument that a widening gap between the richest and poorest Americans is the fundamental problem to be solved and that poverty is merely a symptom of that deeper flaw.

Such concerns about inequality are not baseless, of course. They begin from a fact of the modern American economy, which is that, in recent decades, incomes among the poor have risen less quickly than have incomes among the wealthy.

And such growing inequality, some critics contend, is both practically and morally dangerous. A growing income divide can foster bitterness and animosity between classes, threaten democracy, and destabilize the economy.

Above all, they argue, it violates the cherished moral principle of equality. Implicit in much of the critique of our income divide is the assumption that inequality per se is inherently unjust, and therefore that the gap between rich and poor is as well.

That perceived injustice in turn spurs support for redistributionist policies that are intended to make levels of prosperity more equal across society. President Obama commonly uses the language of justice and equality to advance such an agenda — speaking, for instance, of "the injustice in the growing divide between Main Street and Wall Street.

Some religious figures have even used their moral concerns about inequality to justify the imposition of specific redistributionist economic policies. For example, Jim Wallis, president of the liberal religious organization Sojourners, has said that inequality in America — "a sin of biblical proportions" — necessitates a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the rich, and increased welfare spending.

But though the gap between rich and poor may be widening, this obsession with inequality — and this preferred approach to mitigating it — are fundamentally counterproductive. They are born of a misconception rooted in a flawed understanding of both justice and economic fact.

Even if their premises and objectives were sound, these policies would have perverse unintended consequences — fostering class resentment, destroying jobs, and reducing wages and opportunities for the poor most of all. Such policies also tend to undermine the family and create a culture of dependence on the state — unleashing harmful consequences that would, again, fall disproportionately on the poor.

Before we can seriously address the state of the poor in America, then, we need to seriously question some popular assumptions about poverty, equality, and justice. We must ask whether justice is always synonymous with equality, and explore the economic realities underlying the claim that a resource gap is inherently unjust.

Such an examination will show that the left's intense focus on the income gap is severely misplaced — and that, if we fail to correct their error, our society runs the risk of neglecting the poor for the sake of an ill-advised ideological quest.

Indeed, in America, we often use "equality" as a synonym for justice.

An analysis of the politics of rich and poor

A just society, we imply, is one in which everyone is treated equally. After all, the guiding first principle of the American founding, according to the Declaration of Independence, was that "all men are created equal. And justice also requires that we recognize these differences.

Where people are equal, it is just to treat them the same; where they are different, it is unjust to treat them the same. So in what respects are people equal? According to the Declaration of Independence, all men are equally endowed with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, wrote elsewhere that no one is born either with a saddle on his back or with boots and spurs to ride his fellow man. In other words, no person has an inherent duty by birth to submit to another, nor does anyone enjoy an inherent right by birth to dominate another.

On the basis of this principle, justice demands that all people be treated equally before the law. Moreover, every life, by virtue of being a human life, is equal in value.

No matter how young, old, weak, or poor a man may be, his life is just as worthy of respect and protection as any other. No one should be excluded from the opportunity to live freely and contribute to society.

But our equal worth as human beings does not mean that we must be treated equally in every sense and in every situation. We need not expect to possess equal faculties; society need not provide us with equal material circumstances.

In the (metaphorical) red corner, are those that claim the poor are getting poorer either because income is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few or because standards of living are. There are large divides between the rich and the poor on issues of redistribution Source: Matt Grossman analysis of Martin Gilens data set, Of the policies listed on the chart, the only one that was passed within four years was the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was opposed by the lowest-income voters and the median voter. "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer" is an aphorism due to Percy Bysshe A Defence of Poetry (, not published until ) Shelley remarked that the promoters of utility had. exemplified the saying, “To him that hath, more shall be given; and from him that hath not, the little that he .

Consider, for instance, an elementary-school class. It would be foolish and unjust to insist that the teacher and a third-grade student have equal say regarding every choice made in the classroom — including who gets to determine classroom rules, set the curriculum, and assign homework.

The Rise of the Working Poor and the Non-Working Rich | HuffPost

It would also be wrong to insist that every student — regardless of ability, effort, and achievement — receive exactly the same grade. But if a school-bus accident during a field trip resulted in the teacher's and students' being admitted to a local hospital, all of them — as human beings whose lives are of equal worth — would have an equal claim to life-saving care.Jun 01,  · Hard working Filipinos remain poor, watching the people of other nations in the region get rich.

Revolutions come and go in Philippines, but the old villains --corruption and political . The income gap between the rich and poor in the United States has reached its highest levels since the Great Depression. Given past evidence that a wider rich-poor gap can be harmful to a population’s health, tax policies that widen or narrow this gap may influence the overall health of a society.

Mar 30,  · The Rise of the Working Poor and the Non-Working Rich Consider the rise of both the working poor and the non-working rich, and the meritocratic ideal on which America's growing inequality is .

Since concluding positive result can come from aiding these types of countries, it’s clear that Singer’s argument does not hold true for these examples. Therefore, an important objection to Singer’s main argument is that the rich should leave the poor to starve lest the poor drag the rich down with them.

The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the Reagan Aftermath [Kevin P. Phillips, Kevin Phillips] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Republican policies in the s will produce a reversal of the public's political sympathies in the sReviews: May 21,  · There is no tendency for poor countries around the world to grow either faster or slower than rich countries.

For every Botswana and South Korea, there is a Madagascar and Niger.

Chapter 5: Middle-class Politics | Pew Research Center