The class-warfare suggestion of some political candidates that the super-wealthy are somehow not entitled to what they’ve made is both ridiculous and dangerous.
We wonder what it’s like to be Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffett. Or maybe Oprah, Jay-Z, Michael Bloomberg, or, heaven help us, George Soros or Tom Steyer.
Those people are all, in their own way, very smart, incredibly talented and wonderfully creative. But that’s not why we wonder about them.
Rather, we’re curious how they feel being considered the source of all evil in the world — at least as some Democratic presidential candidates and pundits see it.
Led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the Democrats running for president and liberal pundits are stoking a French Revolution-style rage and envy toward the “billionaire class” that exceeds anything articulated by Democrats of yore.
Back in September, for example, Sanders tweeted, “Our message to the billionaire class: you cannot have it all. We will tax extreme wealth and invest in working people.”
On her campaign website, Warren says, “A small group of families has taken a massive amount of the wealth American workers have produced, while America’s middle class has been hollowed out.”
Warren and Sanders propose putting class warfare rhetoric into action with new “wealth” taxes that would zap America’s richest families with massive new taxes in order to fund exorbitantly priced social welfare programs.
The senators claim billionaires must cough up more so we can “invest” in others. In 1970, the federal government spent $1.3 trillion (in 2019 dollars). The 2020 federal budget is estimated to run $4.7 trillion — nearly four times as much. On a per-person basis, we spent $6,251 in 1970; today, it’s $14,602. Spending clearly is not a problem.
Meanwhile, consider who pays the taxes that help feed the federal leviathan. The top 1% of earners pay 39% of all income taxes, according to the National Taxpayers Union. The top 10% (whose income begins at $145,000 a year) paid 70%. The top half — those who make at least $42,000 a year — paid 97% of all federal income taxes.
This class-warfare suggestion that the super-wealthy are somehow not entitled to what they’ve made is both ridiculous and dangerous.
It’s ridiculous because billionaires amassed their fortunes by developing innovative products or services and selling them on the open market through an endless stream of voluntary, consensual transactions with people who wanted those things. Along the way they’ve created millions of jobs for people on all rungs of the economic ladder.
It’s dangerous because it feeds a silly notion that billionaires made their bundles through nefarious means that other Americans are unable to use or access — and that the U.S. economy is a zero-sum game that doesn’t reward talent, hard work, ingenuity, perseverance and education.
Nearly 800 years ago, St. Thomas Aquinas identified envy as one of the seven deadly sins, noting “Charity rejoices in our neighbor’s good, while envy grieves over it.” If we continue to listen to the likes of Sanders and Warren, envy could well be the death of our economy, and much more that we cherish.
A version of this editorial first appeared in The (Lakeland) Ledger, a News Herald sister paper with GateHouse Media.