So much for sophisticated liberalism. Nicholas Kristof's Thursday New York Times column is titled "Why Let the Rich Hoard All the Toys?" Despite (or because of) an opening that's almost a parody of simple-minded liberalism, it was the 1# most e-mailed Times story as of Friday morning.
Imagine a kindergarten with 100 students, lavishly supplied with books, crayons and toys.
Yet you gasp: one avaricious little boy is jealously guarding a mountain of toys for himself. A handful of other children are quietly playing with a few toys each, while 90 of the children are looking on forlornly -- empty-handed.
The one greedy boy has hoarded more toys than all those 90 children put together!
“What’s going on?” you ask. “Let’s learn to share! One child shouldn’t hog everything for himself!”
The greedy little boy looks at you, indignant. “Do you believe in redistribution?” he asks suspiciously, his lips curling in contempt. “I don’t want to share. This is America!”
And then he summons his private security firm and has you dragged off the premises. Well, maybe not, but you get the point.
That kindergarten distribution is precisely what America looks like. Our wealth has become so skewed that the top 1 percent possesses a greater collective worth than the entire bottom 90 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.
This inequality is a central challenge for the United States today and should be getting far more attention in this presidential campaign....
One obvious problem with it: In America, people generally earn their money, unlike fivce-year-olds who are given toys by their parents. Kristof eventually got slightly more sensible:
As I see it, the best way to create a more equitable society wouldn’t be Robin Hood-style redistribution, but a focus on inner-city and rural education -- including early childhood programs -- and job training. That approach would expand opportunity, even up the starting line, and chip away at cycles of poverty. If the cost means forcing tycoons to pay modestly higher taxes, so be it. The economy wouldn’t suffer.
After all, the United States enjoyed strong growth in the 1950s when we were a more egalitarian country, even though the top income tax rate in that decade was always more than 90 percent.