Poor Get Richer, Rich Get Poorer

Tait Trussell is a national award-winning writer, former vice-president of the American Enterprise Institute and former Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.


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Poverty is of serious social concern. But exaggeration and misinformation about poverty obscure the nature, extent, and causes of real material deprivation, as the well known political scientist and scholar James Q. Wilson has observed.

As Wilson stated Americans today have a better life than “more than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.” Even as early as 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

“The home of the typical poor family was not overcrowded and was in good repair. In fact, the typical poor American had more living space than the average European. The typical poor American family was also able to obtain medical care when needed.”

The motley mob of discontents and zealots gathering in Zuccotti Park and in a number of locations around the country have demonstrated their vast ignorance of capitalism and economics as well as a frightening lack of social grace—often resorting to violence, which attracts undesirables, ranging from labor union thugs to socialists (sometimes one and the same).

As Hoover Institution senior fellow Thomas Sowell has said: “Americans are generally given ‘class’ labels on the basis of their transient location in the income stream. If most Americans do not stay in the same broad income bracket for even a decade, their repeatedly changing ‘class’ makes class itself a nebulous concept. Yet the intelligentsia are habituated, if not addicted, to seeing the world in class terms.”

A “sense of economic anxiety” and a “combustible climate” helps to explain both the volatility in the presidential campaign and the protest movements posing as Occupy Wall Street, purportedly to express grievances against banks, perceived income equality, and a belief the poor and the middle class have been stomped on. So said The New York Times October 26.

The total ignorance by so many in the public and in politics about the nature of shifting income levels at different life periods is at the root of much of today’s climate of unrest. But for some the truth is easily pushed aside by the well-developed politics of class warfare.

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  • Rifleman

    Generally, the rich get richer because they usually continue to work the hours, sacrifice, delay gratification, and make the good decisions that made them wealthy. The poor generally continue to work the minimum hours, live for the weekend, think short term, and make the poor decisions that make and keep them poor. The rich getting richer doesn’t make the poor any poorer. There’s no mystery or conspiracy there, just envy and jealousy

    • tkellybal

      That is 100% correct. Well stated. 'Envy' is the catalyst for a lot of really bad legislation.

    • Daniel LaLiberte

      Some do, indeed, get richer by working harder. But it is not true for all, and it need not be true for most, because of the many reasons it is far easier for the rich to get richer with less and less work. Even if we factor out all those reasons, mathematical simulations show that the Rich can get Richer by Sheer Dumb Luck: https://globalconsensus.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/

      And with finite resources, if the rich hog most of the resources, of course that means there is less for everyone else. How could it be otherwise? How delusional do you have to be to ignore reality?

  • shevrae

    But I don't WANNA wait until I'm in my mid-50's to make that much money! It's so UNFAIR! I wanna make that much money NOW!!!!

    I graduated from college in 1999 with $30K worth of student loan debt and a degree in biochemistry (one of the much-touted STEM fields). My job offers ranged from $22K (in academia) -$30K (in private industry) a year. I was thrilled. Granted, the economy has changed since then, but who told these kids that they could graduate from college and start at $50-$75K? They live in a dream world and will tear the real one down if we don't let them stay there.

  • truckwork

    Our form of government never promised equality in results. Results are the responsibility of the individual.

    Much of the OWS movement is based upon a sin. The tenth commandment says that thou shall not covet they neighbors house or anything in it (envy).

    Again a failure of the parents to educate their offspring in the manner in which our country and government are supposed to work.

    • Herman Caintonette

      Envy is the foundation of capitalism. Jesus was a filthy socialist.

      • Rifleman

        Jesus never compelled anybody to do anything, so he couldn't be a socialist. Freedom is the foundation of the free market, not envy. Envy and theft is the foundation of socialism.

  • Herman Caintonette

    Facts are an undiscovered country at FPM. The top 1% have never had it so good http://www.businessinsider.com/15-charts-about-we

    • Anon9000

      How dare you, sir! How dare you post a link to documentation that supports your assertions! This is FPM their is no room for proof!
      BELIEF is all the proof an FPMer needs.

    • NotaBene

      Of course, if everything is hunky-dory, why should they oppose Obama?

  • NotaBene

    Eat your gruel, you ungrateful peasants! You never had it so good!

    • Rifleman

      Lol, I guess you haven't been in line behind one of our 'poverty stricken' WIC card holders at the grocery store.

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  • iakovos

    Why the socialist myth of the rich that are getting richer and of the poor that are getting poorer is a lie

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/204810193/The-rich-are-getting-richer-and-the-poor-are-getting-poorer-Another-socialist-myth