Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The poor getting richer

The political left likes to make a lot of noise about how fundamentally unfair capitalism is, often claiming that it results in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Ezra Klein engages in a bit of this in a column for The American Prospect:
Society is a collection of individuals. If there were no rewards for innovation, we might find spontaneous invention giving way to its opposite. But we are far from that world. Instead, we have set up a system that lavishly rewards individuals and impoverishes society. Where the richest percentile see their incomes grow by $863,000 and the poorest 20 percent see gains of $1,600. And given what we know about innovation, it's not clear that that's a wise -- or fair -- distribution.
Note how Klein claims that we have a system that "impoverishes society" but then literally in the next sentence says that the poor had their incomes go up! This is what it has come to for the left, they are so desperate in their bid to discredit capitalism that impoverishment now means increasing incomes. Talk about doublespeak. Even here Klein is engaging in a bit of rhetorical sleight of hand. Klein carefully says "incomes" rather than compensation because compensation -- which includes not only pay but benefits such as health insurance -- has been increasing at an even faster rate.

This should not come as a surprise. Just yesterday Klein actually seemed to applaud Obama's vow to cut $100 million in spending because it was such a wonderful deceit. I kid you not:
...it's smart for Obama to wrest some headlines by promising $100 million in efficiencies. He's playing on the electorate's inability to distinguish types of "illions." Most people will never see a million dollars. Fewer will see $10 million. $100 million is getting into unimaginable sums. It's the rare human being who can really conceptualize a billion dollars. And trillions? That's a joke, right?

The government thinks on the scale of aggregate national income. Voters think on the scale of individual income. You can get away with a lot of mischief exploiting the vast distance between the two. Cutting a program with $100 million is much easier, and no less politically rewarding, than cutting a program worth $2 billion. I wouldn't be surprised, in fact, if the $100 million means more to the voter than the $2 billion, if only because the former has the word hundred" in front of it. Some enterprising political neuroscientist could do a neat experiment on this by hooking a voter to a brain scanner and playing different quotes on cutting waste.
At least he's open about it.

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