Walter E. Williams

 There's another issue about income inequality. If it's your vision that out there somewhere there's a pile of money to be divided among Americans, the reason the top fifth of Americans have much more than the bottom fifth is that they got to the pile of money first and took an unfair share. Justice, of course, would require that their ill-gotten gains be confiscated and redistributed to their rightful owners. But in a free society, income is mostly determined by one's ability and willingness to produce goods and services that satisfy his fellow man.

 The top fifth of income earners (earnings greater than $84,000) are not only more productive and have higher skills and education than the bottom fifth of income earners, they work more hours and have more people in their household working.

 There's something else that gets little attention. There's considerable income mobility in our country. According to Internal Revenue Service tax data, 85.8 percent of tax filers in the bottom fifth in 1979 had moved on to a higher quintile, and often to the top quintile, by 1988. Income mobility goes in the other direction as well. Of the people who were in the top 1 percent of income earners in 1979, over half, or 52.7 percent, were gone by 1988.

 Here's my question to you. What are we to make of politicians, and other charlatans and quacks, who are knowingly dishonest and use the politics of envy to exploit American ignorance for political gain? It's immaterial whether you're for George Bush or for John Kerry winning the White House -- do you think politicians running on the politics of envy bodes well for the future of our country?

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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