The Envy Industry

Envy isn't just one of the seven capital sins.

Nowadays, it's an industry, and like all industries, reporters cover it. Of course, they don't write about envy. They write about taxes.

Taxes are never high enough or "fair" enough for the rich, or so says, for the umpteenth time, the New York Times. There, the crocodile tears ever flow with tales of woe about the penurious poor and ravenous rich.

Annoying as the collectivist eyewash is, however, many of the rich get what they richly deserve.

The Article

The writer quotes an outfit called the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which "advocates tax and federal spending policies to benefit the poor."

That's the liberal way of saying it's a band of Reds, but anyhow, a few quotes from the article:

"The richest 1 percent of Americans in 2000 had more money to spend after taxes than the bottom 40 percent….

"The richest 2.8 million Americans had $950 billion after taxes, or 15.5 percent, of the $6.2 trillion economic pie in 2000," while the "the poorest 110 million Americans had less, sharing 14.4 percent of all after tax money."

Not crying yet?

"In 2000, the top 1 percent of American taxpayers had $862,700 each after taxes, on average, more than triple the $286,300 they had, adjusted for inflation, in 1979. The bottom 40 percent in 2000 had $21,118 each, up 13 percent from their $18,695 average in 1979."

So, "in 2000, the top 1 percent had the largest share of the nation’s total after-tax income since at least 1936 and probably since 1929."

Translation: The rich have been screwing the poor since the stock market crash.

As with most articles on taxes, this one ignores the obvious: The rich have more money to spend after taxes because they had more to spend before taxes.

Happily, the Times noted that the top 1 percent of earners pay 25 percent of all taxes, compared to the bottom 40 percent paying just 6 percent. In other words, when it comes to paying taxes, the "rich" foot the bill. The poor pay squat.

The point of the story? Create tax policy to "benefit the poor" by inciting envy for and unjust loathing of industrious Americans.

But Don't Feel Sorry

On one hand, this is unfair, for wealth keeps the country going. Most people are wealthy because they work hard or bring new ideas to the free market. Riches are the just rewards of assiduous work.

If it weren't for wealth, the welfare state would not exist. It shouldn't exist, but the point is made: Government benefits for the poor come from the rich.

On the other hand, many of the rich whom the article attacks, with its unwritten subtext, support the ideologues and politicians of envy. The rich support these studies and the anti-capitalist policies that result. The Wall Street plutocrats who subsidize statist Republicans and socialist Democrats ask for it; the envy-mongers give it to them good and hard.

Feel no sympathy, for instance, for Microsoft magnate Bill Gates. He was hoist upon the petard of his financial support for Democrats, who used the government to attack his company for "antitrust" violations. Ditto for any other tycoon who arms the State with political contributions.

If the rich would stop supporting the two political parties, the foundations that peddle collectivism, and the "centers" that produce these ridiculous studies, they would do more than help themselves.

They would cripple the envy industry.

September 27, 2003

Syndicated columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va.

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