by John McClaughry
Sen. Bernie Sanders is out on the Presidential campaign trail, and he says he’s “talking about what I believe is the most important issue facing the American people: the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality. The Koch brothers [Bernie’s proxies for Satan] and a few others are attempting to buy the United States government, and that should be of concern to everybody.”
When asked (by Mother Jones magazine) why we should be concerned, the Vermont socialist replied with a rare allusion to religion. “I think this goes back to the Bible. There is something immoral when so few have so much and so many have so little.”
I don’t pretend to be a Biblical scholar, but I grant Bernie (who is Jewish) that the Torah expresses a deep concern that excessive economic inequality can lead to a loss of God-given freedom. But what passes for socialist morality in practice today is not so much concerned with the wisdom of the Torah, as with seizing political power.
In the relevant chapter of the New Testament (Mark 10:21), Jesus replied to the rich man who had faithfully obeyed the Ten Commandments “Sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” After hearing this proposition, the man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Note the contrast: The Christian morality says that the rich man who distributes his riches will enter the Kingdom of God. The socialist morality promises him no reward in heaven, or on earth. The obligation of socialist morality is to unite the masses, seize control of the government, wield its instruments of coercion to confiscate the riches of the unworthy owners, and distribute those riches to everybody not “rich”. That is, after the redistributors are well compensated for their morality enforcement.
Another key difference is that under socialist morality the rich are not given the choice to divest themselves of their possessions, in return for which they may enter the socialist equivalent of the Kingdom Of God (whatever that may be). Instead, the all-powerful government plunders their possessions, after which the formerly rich find themselves not in the Kingdom of God, but in a reeducation camp, or on a steam grate with a tin cup.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (2014), the despised (by socialists) “top 1%” of income earners (threshold income: $1.453 million) collect 14.6% of all income. They paid (in 2013) 33% of the total of Federal individual income, payroll, corporate and excise taxes, while receiving very little in government transfer benefits.
The Gini Index, that measures inequality on a scale of zero (everyone has the same income) to one (the top recipient gets all the income) has risen from 0.37 in 1980 to 0.44 today – not too alarming.
What’s fair? A Sanderista might say that the top 1% ought to be made to pay 50% of all taxes, instead of 33%. Another might say that the top 1% should pay 90% of all taxes, until they aren’t the top 1% any more. There is no rational way to determine “what’s fair”.
Gallup’s April survey asked if respondents thought income and wealth should be more widely distributed. The result: 63% yes, 31% no. (The poll question didn’t hint at how the redistribution should be effected.) Gallup added: “This year’s increase to 63% [from 59% in 2013] is close to the average of 62% agreement across the 13 times Gallup has asked the question since 1984.”
The CBS News/New York Times Poll in May asked a national sample of 1,027 adults “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” Only four percent of respondents mentioned “income gap/disparity”.
But the perennial inability of the inequality issue to catch fire politically (at least since Huey Long during the Depression) won’t deter determined socialists like Bernie Sanders from beating the envy drum, and calling on the Bible for help.
- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).