Mona Charen

Using data from the Current Population Survey, the National Center for Policy Analysis looked at income quintiles over time. They found that after one year, one-third of those in the bottom quintile had moved up, and one-quarter of those in the top group had moved down. After 10 years, 60 percent of those in the bottom group had moved up to higher quintiles, with 8 percent getting all the way into the top quintile. Correspondingly, 6 percent of those in the top quintile went all the way to the bottom after 10 years, and 54 percent of those at the top had moved to some lower group 10 years later.

Democrats like to talk about "the rich" as if they are a fixed group of individuals, but anecdotal evidence suggests that two-thirds of those on the Forbes 400 list in 1994 were no longer on the list a decade later. And 80 percent of those on the list were self-made.

People tend to begin their work lives at or near the bottom quintile of income. White male 21-year-olds, for example, begin at the 20 percentile in overall white men's income. As they gain experience and skills, they move up. By age 31, they reach the 50th percentile mark. And between the ages of 31 and 59, they average near the 60th percentile mark for all workers. When they get close to retirement age, their incomes tend to fall.

We already have a steeply progressive income tax, with the top 5 percent of earners paying 60 percent of the taxes (in 2006), and the top 25 percent paying 86 percent. Obama wants to perform an experiment by confiscating more of the income of the most productive earners (who create the overwhelming majority of jobs) and distributing it to those who earn less.

It's been done before -- with dreadful results. Call it socialism if you like. But don't call it "fairness."


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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