A liberal friend of mine reacted to the alarming new poverty figures yesterday by saying that we need to help more people. Only a Washington liberal wouldn’t know that it was “helping” that caused the biggest spurt in poverty since 1994. The current administration would like to continue with the policies that have increased poverty.
In a piece headlined, “How’s That Inequality Thing Working Out for You?,” theWall Street Journal has a different prescription:
We draw a different lesson, which is the continuing imperative of rapid economic growth. Census Bureau figures over the last 50 years show that poverty falls most rapidly during times of the most sustained growth-the 1960s, 1980s and second half of the 1990s. The poverty rate also fell in the mid-2000s before heading up again when the recession hit. The most important goal of economic policy should be to increase society’s overall wealth. This helps the poor and everybody else.
Yet starting with his first budget proposal, Mr. Obama has made clear that his main policy purpose is reducing inequality. As the White House budget scribes put it, “There’s nothing wrong with making money, but there is something wrong when we allow the playing field to be tilted so far in the favor of so few. . . . It’s a legacy of irresponsibility, and it is our duty to change it.”
It seems to me that this emphasis on equality is rooted in some way on envy. It’s caring more if somebody has earned (or, to be fair, inherited) more than I have rather than on whether I am able to have enough for to be comfortable and secure. But it’s not just morally suspect:
More important, this preoccupation with inequality is actively harmful because it leads to economic policies that inhibit growth. That’s the real warning in the new Census data. Democrats are succeeding in their goal of punishing business and the wealthy, but to the extent that this has produced anemic growth it is also punishing the poor and middle class.