A return to the politics of fear and envy?

Posted: Dec 11, 2006 12:00 AM
A return to the politics of fear and envy?

Now that Democrats are back in power the politics of fear and envy is back in vogue.

It's hard to open a newspaper or watch the news without hearing about the "income gap" or the "wealth gap."

CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, well dressed and well fed (Lou certainly is up in that one percent of the population earning 20 percent of the income), goes on and on, night after night, about the "War on the Middle Class."

Whose war, Lou? Who's running it? Exactly who is it that is attacking our middle class? Is it those folks who, instead of sitting on the couch and listening to Lou, are actually working and taking responsibility for their lives?

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who will take over as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, says he wants to hold hearing on "How do you do a better job of sharing overall economic growth with the average worker?" and calls this the "No. 1 problem" facing the country.

Perhaps Frank should check with his colleagues on Capitol Hill, who seem to be surviving the assault on working Americans quite well.

Roll Call newspaper has just completed its annual survey of the 50 wealthiest Members of Congress. The cutoff at No. 50, at $4.67 million, is up 12 percent from last year's survey.

The top four wealthiest members are all Frank's fellow Democrats: John Kerry ($750 million), Herb Kohl ($243 million), Jay Rockefeller ($200 million) and Jane Harman ($172 million).

The top five would have been Democrats but John Corzine ($262 million) departed the U.S. Senate to become governor of New Jersey.

New Speaker Nancy Pelosi comes in at No. 15, at a paltry $14.25 million net worth.

How about Hillary Clinton? No. 25 at $10.05 million.

Illinois Democrat Rahm Emmanuel, who wants to scrutinize executive compensation and champion activist government for the poor and middle class, is worth $8.52 million.

Two relevant questions to ask are: Is the stuff about the growing gaps in income and wealth true? And, second, even if it is, does it matter?

Without trying to answer the first question, it is worth pointing out that what the press cranks out daily as gospel is far from accurate.

Cato Institute economist and columnist Alan Reynolds challenges the conventional wisdom a gap exists in a new textbook called "Income and Wealth." Reynolds demonstrates the statistical complications and vagaries in compiling data on income and wealth. He shows that this is a field of dreams for politicians who can come up with what ever they want to and can show whatever they want to show.

Reynolds himself thinks that the country is in great shape and that American workers are really the envy of the rest of the world.

Regarding the second question, my answer is that this information is important if what you really care about is what your neighbor has. However, I would suggest that there is a reason that the Tenth Commandment is "Thou Shalt Not Covet."

Fear and envy create wealth for politicians who use these levers, as Democrats want to do now, to activate and grow government as a pretense for solving problems that people can only solve for themselves.

A recently released study by the Goldwater Institute in Arizona examines, state by state, changes in the rates of poverty from 1990 to 2000.

The study shows that in the last decade, the 10 states with the lowest per capita government spending had an 11.2 percent decline in poverty rates and the 10 states with the highest per capita spending had a 7.3 percent increase in poverty rates.

The 10 states with the lowest levels of taxation had a 13.7 percent decline in poverty rates and the 10 states with the highest level of taxation had a 3.04 percent increase.

Individuals who work create jobs. It's an issue of freedom and values not social engineering.

What can politicians do? Help get government out of the way.

If the newly crowned Democrats want to do better than Republicans, they should start with education. Barney Frank thinks that the nation's No. 1 problem is worrying what every one else is earning. The nation's No. 1 problem is the public school monopoly and what it is doing to inner city kids.

The New York Times reports that new studies show that, despite the ambitious goals of No Child Left Behind, reading and math performance gaps between white and black and Hispanic children are virtually unchanged. According to the Times, these new tests show "African-American and Hispanic students in high school can read and do arithmetic at only the average level of whites in junior high school.

Bust the public school monopoly. Get freedom in education. This is what Democrats can do to help.