Friday, April 9, 2010

Unequal Income Distribution

Do YOU want to redistribute some of the nation's wealth? Do you feel jealous that somebody out there is making $250k a year, but you are earning a paltry $40k? I'll tell you how to fix this problem, in a simple three step plan!
Step one: Figure out what these rich bastards do.
Step two: After you've pinned down the careers of these flamboyant wealth slingers, figure out how they got there.
Step Three: Copy them.
It's that simple! After step three, that wealth will be redistributed to you! Generally, what this entails is getting educated, working hard at the job, making sacrifices, taking risks, climbing the ranks of the organization and building personal relationships.

Of course, I am being facetious about the simplicity because this is not easy to do. But I am making a point. This is precisely the reason people earn high salaries. They didn't just wake up one morning and a high-powered career was 'distributed' to them. Sure there are people who find these jobs because of their family connection or whatever, but aside from this being beside the point, it doesn't mean that they don't work hard. And say they don't work hard and they aren't worth it, then their organization is the one suffering and it's the organization's own problem where the situation will likely correct itself through competitive forces. But notice my emphasis of this three step program was on you. Not punishing the other guy who worked hard to get where he is, but elevating yourself to get to a level you are happy with.

But here is the problem in America. We've heard it is called the 'entitlement generation.' Given that over half the federal budget goes to social programs (see previous posts), it's not too hard to see what encourages that mentality. Americans just want stuff given to them without having to work for it. They want the easy road. But why should the easy road be rewarded? Who would want to become a doctor if they spent 8 years in college, 4 years in residency if they only stood to make $40k a year? The point is that people get paid for their marginal productivity. The system values their contribution to society, and values it highly.

And why should it matter to you that Joe down the street is making 3 times as much as you? Aside from pure jealousy, I can't think of anything. Americans are a jealous people. They hate when their neighbor has more toys than them. They want to be better than everybody else, but mainly through the reliance on luck. Because Joe down the street is making 3 times as much as you does not mean that he is stealing money from you. This is not a zero-sum game where one person's gain is at the other's expense.

And here is another fact. The demographics of the wealthy, middle class and poor are generally at different stages in their careers (another great point discussed by Thomas Sowell). Most of the people considered wealthy are senior level professionals in their 40s and 50s (obviously). Many people currently considered the middle class will soon ascend into this upper class designation as their career progresses. Simply cutting a cross section of the economy and dividing it up based on income is highly misleading to the true economic situation and facts surrounding it.

For myself, a difference of a few weeks brought me from being classified as legally poor to being legally 'rich.' And no, I didn't win the lotto. I graduated with another graduate degree and was hired into a full time position. Did anything substantially change? Did my bank account shoot up? Did I go out and buy an Aston Martin V12 Vantage? None of the above. The only thing changed was what tax bracket I will end up in and a mark in the IRS database as being 'rich.' But my point is that from one day I was legally poor and then a few days later was legally 'rich,' but the only thing that changed was that I reached a new stage in my life. These income/wealth distribution statistics should report life cycle information, but that wouldn't rile up the voting base as much, now would it?

I used to envy people driving nice cars and living the good life. But what did I do, whine and cry about how they should be getting paid less or taxed more? No, I worked my ass off in college sacrificing nearly all of my 20s to obtain 3 degrees. While most college students were off at frat parties or in Cancun for spring break, I was in the library studying. Am I living the good life now then? No, not quite. I will be paying off massive student loans for years, but it is the sacrifice that I am making to make it in life and to earn the things I want in life. I have invested in my future, and I should be allowed to keep the return on my investment since it was me who put in the hard work and financial investment.

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