“Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.” — Abraham Lincoln
If you were to ask the average American what level of income they would like to have, the answer you’re likely to get from most is, “As much as I can get.” This does little other than to show that folks tend to have dreams. On the the other hand, if you asked them something like, “What’s the minimum amount of money you think you could be happy or satisfied with on a yearly basis?” I would bet the average person would indicate something between $50,000 and $100,000.
I have to admit, there’re places in the U.S. Where the number may be closer to $250,000 because of the cost of living in those areas.
Consider how different this is from even the yearly income of the likes of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. These folks probably haul in over ten billion a year each.
“Hold on,” you’re saying, “Bill Gates is worth tens of billions of dollars!” Yes, that’s true, but there’s a difference between annual income and net worth. Mr Gates—along with the others listed, and a good many more people—have been amassing wealth for years; for Mr Gates, probably, more than thirty. Counting what they were able to save or to keep is not the same as counting what they made this year.
I know a man who last I heard, was worth a couple million dollars. His job before retirement? He taught Economics at a post-secondary level.
Put simply, I think you’d be astounded just how many people in the U.S. are worth more than a million dollars. In fact, I can’t even imagine how many are worth ten million or more. But the subject of this article was Income Inequality, not Asset Inequality.
Even considering this, the amount that someone like Mr Buffet “makes” in a year is pretty staggering by comparison to the annual income for the average American. Yet, even though these folks make what many would term an obscene amount of money every year, people talking about what would make them happy at a minimum would list an amount substantially below the earnings of the quite rich people listed. In fact, they would be far closer to a year’s wages for a person making minimum wage, than one of the persons listed.
If you asked another question, “What could you survive on (without falling behind) per year?” You can be the number would drop again. It’s very likely, in fact, that most would tell you they could live on less than $50,000, and again, that’s without falling behind.
To argue that most folks could live well on that amount, or be happy for very long, would be silliness in the extreme. Nonetheless, live on such an amount they could.
The point of this exercise? To show that what the rich have—or hold, for that matter—is not what’s significant.
The important question is, “What do I need to live?” Past that, the next question is, “What’s the minimum I could make and be happy with my revenue?” Of course, almost everybody would love to get more, that’s no surprise.
All of this considered though, it seems for someone really thinking about things, the question of “income inequity” is not what he or she at least should be considering.
The two significant considerations are, cost of living, and annual income. Unless you have to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos or Mark Cuban to survive, or even to live comfortably, what they make really doesn’t matter. You can rest assured, you don’t.
So the next question in our little chain is, “Who keeps trying to make this about the disparity between the Uber-rich and the dirt poor?” That’s obviously not a reasonable consideration, so why does class envy keep rearing its ugly green head.
Suffice it to say, there’re a good many people out there in the political class for whom it’s most beneficial that this concept to keep reappearing. If they can convince the masses that rich folks are the problem, they can continue to sell the narrative that taking what those folks have is a sensible course of action.
I grant there are other considerations (like the potential to be bankrupted as a result of critical care need from things like cancer). Yet and still, none of these requires taking the assets of the rich to fix them.
Let’s consider critical care bankruptcy issues. It’s been a long-standing policy of certain folks in the federal government to maintain pretty strict control over certain important facets of the health insurance market by overregulation. Their ongoing argument is, “Health insurance is unfair, we’re here to right those wrongs.” Yet when you look at the long term effects of the policies in place, you see that no improvement can be observed.
In fact, the systems in place continue to perform ever more poorly, looking at the ongoing trend.
PPACA (the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, or what is commonly mis-named Obamacare), is an excellent example of this. You were supposed to be able to keep your existing insurance, yet millions lost theirs. You were supposed to see a cost reduction in yearly premiums, yet nearly everyone’s monthly payments rose.
When government regulates, the consumer—the supposed beneficiary—almost invariably pays the price.
I’m not arguing the need for regulation. I can agree some amount may be necessary. In general though, a lighter hand is better than a heavy one.
In the long run though, where the cost of things like health care are definitely a factor, overall, the cost of living and the level of a person’s wages with regard to it are the real and abiding issue.
The basic point of this little writing is, the argument ought not to be “defunding the rich.” It ought rather to be, making sure that Americans are able to get jobs or find ways to make a living, that give them enough income to be happy with their lot.
For one to begrudge the wealthy their wealth, is tantamount to saying, “If I’m ever rich, you should hold that against me.”
Thanks for reading and may your time be good.