The economics of envy

Here’s a typical bit of leftist rubbish: Wealth concentration near ‘levels last seen during the Roaring Twenties,’ study finds. Such studies, and no doubt accurate to the third decimal. But suppose we just change the heading a bit:

Wealth levels near ‘levels last seen during the Roaring Twenties,’ study finds

Take the bottom ten percent today and their standard of living is much much higher than the top ten percent was then. They eat better, have better transportation (say cars and roads), improved entertainment (and right in their own living room) and live in larger, more spacious homes with an endless increase in labour-saving gadgetry.

The level of income inequality is invisible. It requires someone to try to measure two entirely different populations in entirely different periods of time, when in neither there are statistics that will actually measure what they are trying to find. But even if you could measure income inequality, so what? There will always be rich and there will always be poor. The rich today undoubtedly have more goods and services at their command than did the rich in the 1920s. But so do the poor.

What does not change is the level of envy among a large proportion of the population who are made bitter by the success of others. Envy is the worst of the seven deadly sins and there is no known cure. But the envious are everywhere and will take their revenge on the rest of us if they can.

The shrinking US middle class

Here’s a story from The New York Times via Instapundit that should surprise no one if they’ve been paying attention, The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest. Because it is The New York Times, it is unable to understand the problem, since it puts it down to rising income inequality as the cause, but then there is hardly any major social issue it is willing any longer to discuss honestly, assuming the kinds of people who write for The New York Times any longer even have a clue what causes what. They do, however, take note of this, in a country with the largest expenditure on education per student in the world:

Americans between the ages of 55 and 65 have literacy, numeracy and technology skills that are above average relative to 55- to 65-year-olds in rest of the industrialized world, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international group. Younger Americans, though, are not keeping pace: Those between 16 and 24 rank near the bottom among rich countries, well behind their counterparts in Canada, Australia, Japan and Scandinavia and close to those in Italy and Spain.

But it’s not just the middle class who are being nailed:

The poor in the United States have trailed their counterparts in at least a few other countries since the early 1980s. With slow income growth since then, the American poor now clearly trail the poor in several other rich countries. At the 20th percentile — where someone is making less than four-fifths of the population — income in both the Netherlands and Canada was 15 percent higher than income in the United States in 2010.

But as pointed out here, the plundering of the middle class from both below and above is now standard in the US. This is not from The New York Times:

Much of America’s moneyed elite has already shifted its allegiance to the Left, especially in cities. Wealthy, educated urbanites hold generally liberal social values and can afford the higher taxes “blue” cities like Chicago impose—especially when those taxes help pay for the upscale amenities they desire. Even when the mayoral administration is less friendly, the urban elite tends to get its needs met. At the same time, the urban poor have remained loyal to the Democrats, no matter how little tangible improvement liberal policies make in their lives. And the various unions, community organizers, and activist groups that advocate for the poor profit handsomely from the moneys directed toward liberal antipoverty programs.

The US is a nation living on its capital and not its income. It will not end well.