In his front-page-of-the-business-section "Economic Scene" column in The New York Times last week, Eduardo Porter wrote, "The United States does less than other rich countries to transfer income from the affluent to the less fortunate."
Think about that sentence for a moment. It ends oddly. Logic dictates that it should have said, "transfer income from the affluent to the less affluent," not the less fortunate.
But for Porter, as for the left generally, those who are not affluent are not merely "less affluent," they are "less fortunate."
Why is this? Why is the leftist division almost always between the "affluent" and the "less fortunate" or between the "more fortunate" and the "less fortunate"?
To understand the left, one must understand that in its view the greatest evil is material inequality. The left is more troubled by economic inequality than by evil, as humanity has generally understood the term. The leftist divides the world not between good and evil but rich and poor.
Because inequality is the chief moral concern of the left, the words "less affluent" or even "poorer" do not meet the left's moral needs. It needs to believe, and to have others believe, that what separates economic classes is not merely how much material wealth members of each class have. Rather, it is the amount of good and bad luck -- "fortune," as the left puts it -- that each class has.
This is how the left justifies high taxes. Isn't it only fair and moral that as much money as possible be taken from the lucky and given to the unlucky? After all, the affluent didn't achieve affluence through harder work, but through greater luck.
To acknowledge that most of America's affluent (meaning those who earn over $200,000) have attained their affluence through hard work is to undermine the fairness issue at the core of the left's understanding of economic inequality and justification for confiscatory taxes.
For the left, affluence is won, not earned. Indeed, English is one of the few languages that even has or uses the word "earn" in regard to income. In Romance languages such as French, the verb meaning to earn is "gagner," which means "to win." In terms of language, in America, people earn their wealth, while in most of Europe and Latin America, people win it.