Look in the mirror, Mr. President
The big story being spotlighted from the Vatican to the White House, from Oxfam to newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City, is economic inequality.
“The human rights group Oxfam reported that the wealth of the world's 85 richest people is equal to that of the poorer half of the world's population,” reported Voice of America on Jan. 20.
In other words, the wealth of a little group of people who could fit into two Mercedes party buses is equal to the combined wealth of the 3.5 billion people who make up the bottom half of the world's population.
That's nothing new. Wrote Jeffrey Goldberg in 2011 in Bloomberg Businessweek, regarding the Wal-Mart heirs, “In 2007, according to labor economist Sylvia Allegretto, the six Walton family members on the Forbes 400 had a net worth equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans.”
Similarly, I could say, correctly, that my net worth is greater than the bottom 25 percent of American households, added together. “In 2009, roughly one in four (24.8 percent) of American households had zero or negative net worth, up from 18.6 percent in 2007,” reported Forbes magazine in December 2011.
Oxfam disapprovingly reported that the annual income derived from the $73 billion fortune of the world's richest individual, Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim, is equal to yearly wages of 440,000 Mexicans.
Oxfam didn't say whether those 440,000 Mexicans would be better off if they had more people like Carlos Slim, Henry Ford, J.W. Marriot, Andrew Carnegie, Walt Disney, W.K. Kellogg, Sam Walton, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ralph Lauren, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerman in their country — all innovators who became wealthy because they produced new jobs, economic growth and new economic pies, not because they grabbed large slices of pre-existing pies.
On Dec. 4, President Obama summed up the performance of the U.S. economy over the past three and a half decades: “Since 1979, our country has more than doubled in size, but most of that growth has flowed to the fortunate few.” The unfortunate many, he said, suspect “the deck is stacked against them.”
By the age of 3, said Obama, again citing numerical inequality, “a child born into a low-income home hears 30 million fewer words than a child from a well-off family.” That might have more to do with absent fathers and drug abuse than the tax rate on capital gains, more about overindulging in negativity than the unobtainability of books.
Pope Francis said we “have to say ‘thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality” and not “assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market,” buttressed by “trickle-down theories,” will “inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice.”
In fact, the pro-market, pro-growth policies of Reagan, disparagingly referred to as “trickle-down economics,” produced falling poverty rates every year from 1984 to 1989, a 20 percent overall hike in real per-capita disposable incomes, a drop in inflation from 13.5 percent to 4.1 percent, and a decline in the unemployment rate to 5.5 percent by way of the creation of 20 million new jobs.
Today, in contrast, Obama's anti-growth policies of more taxation, more regulation, more government and more redistribution have produced the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, the lowest workforce participation rate in 40 years, declining incomes, more inequality and more poverty.
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Large pipelines proposed to carry gas from shale formations
- Pitt upsets No. 8 Notre Dame to snap losing streak
- Washington Road accident in Mt. Lebanon injures five people
- No. 17 WVU rolls past Texas Tech, 77-58
- Rooney says Pittsburgh is ‘good place’ for next northern Super Bowl
- $800K spent to revamp California University of Pa. president’s home
- HOF finalist Bettis ‘behind everything’ in 2005 Super Bowl run
- Man injured in North Union fire
- Dungy, Greene represent more Steelers ties in hall of fame voting
- UPMC researcher who died of cyanide poisoning committed suicide
- Penguins finally break through, defeat Devils at Prudential Center