Last week, President Obama held a summit on poverty at Georgetown University. There, he explained that unrest in major American cities could be traced not to lack of values, but to simple lack of cash -- and that lack of cash, he suggested, could be attributed to simple lack of luck. "The top 25 hedge fund managers made more than all of the kindergarten teachers in the country," Obama stated. "You pretty much have more than you'll ever be able to use or anyone in your family will ever be able to use. There's a fairness issue involved here." He added that we should confiscate wealth from those people and redistribute it to "early childhood education" -- one of the greatest government boondoggles of all time -- because that's "where the question of compassion and 'I'm my brother's keeper' comes into play. And if we can't ask from society's lottery winners to just make that modest investment, then really this conversation [on poverty] is just for show."
This is evil masquerading as generosity.
First, the simple fact that some people earn lots of money while others earn not as much does not implicate "fairness." Your earnings result from the number and value of voluntary transactions seeking your skills, services or goods. It is not unfair that those who understand how to manage billions of dollars on behalf of those who do not earn more than kindergarten teachers; there are far more people qualified to teach kindergarten than to manage money, which is why kindergarten teachers generally hand over their pension funds to money managers.
Second, Barack Obama's subjective view that some people have too much money reeks of monarchic arrogance. President Obama's net worth currently stands at nearly $7 million. He sends his children to the most toney private school in Washington, D.C. He and his wife enjoy taxpayer-sponsored vacations that would make Middle Eastern potentates blush. They also enjoy the favors of Hollywood celebrities who earn as much as hedge fund managers, but never seem to receive the same "you've got enough" Soviet-style central planning routine from the Obamas.
Third, President Obama should not invoke Biblical phraseology without understanding both plain meaning and context. Obama's own half-brother, George, lived as of 2008 on less than $1 per day. And when it comes to Biblical interpretation, the context for "my brother's keeper" comes from Cain and Able: Cain suggests that he need not watch over his brother shortly after killing him out of jealousy for Able's hard work and better sacrifice. Today's Cain is the modern left, which seeks to slay its brothers for the great crime of working harder and sacrificing more.
Finally, Obama's allusion to rich Americans as "lottery winners" insults the intelligence. Warren Buffett did not play the lottery. Nor did Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. They worked hard, produced great products and enriched millions of lives. True lottery winners produce nothing; generally speaking, those who buy lottery tickets are disproportionately poor and spendthrift, and often end up broke again after winning the lottery. The only real lottery winner in this discussion is Obama himself, who has produced nothing and somehow lucked into the most powerful position on the planet.
America does not need wealth redistribution. It needs a values conversion. No poor person has a child out of wedlock thanks to the evils of rich people. No poor person drops out of high school because a rich person forced them to do so. Poverty can sometimes be chalked up to luck on an individual level, but it can't be chalked up to luck on a mass scale. And wealth can't be chalked up to luck, either. To do so is to impoverish our own values at the expense of our future.