I have lost count the number of times I’ve heard someone say, “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer,” when talking about capitalism in general, or our country under President Bush in specific. This presupposes that there are easily defined groups we can point to as “rich” or “poor.” The dirty little fact that too many people ignore is the fluidity of these groups. People who are “poor” this year may have been millionaires last year, and people who are poor, starving students this year may be pulling down the big bucks right after graduation. When we say that America is the home of the free, we mean that people are free to fail just as they are free to succeed.
Contrary to the phrase, while the rich are getting richer, so are the poor. Here is a snippet from a Wall Street Journal story posted yesterday titled “The Poor Get Richer.” (subscription required)
Earnings growth tapered off as the economy slowed in the early part of this decade, but earnings for low-income families have still nearly doubled in the years since welfare reform became law. Some two million welfare mothers have left the dole for jobs since the mid-1990s. Far from being a disaster for the poor, as most on the left claimed when it was debated, welfare reform has proven to be a boon.
The report also rebuts the claim, fashionable in some precincts on CNN, that the middle class is losing ground. The median family with children saw an 18% rise in earnings from the early 1990s through 2005. That’s $8,500 more purchasing power after inflation. The wealthiest fifth made a 55% gain in earnings, but the key point is that every class saw significant gains in income.
On the one hand we have a well-used slogan, and on the other hand we have historical reality. The next time you hear some liberal use the phrase, “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer,” you can explain that just isn’t the case here in the United States.
Not that hearing the facts will change the average liberal’s mind.