By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
Income inequality has been with us since the first guy found himself getting paid less than his coworker a few thousand years ago. Whether the payment of the time was coinage or camels, it doesn’t matter. It’s been a hot button topic ever since.
Fast forward to 2016, and the debate is hotter than ever, the undercurrent of every public policy discussion, from trade to the minimum wage to calls for higher taxation upon the rich. Everything comes down to those who have money vs. those who do not.
Income inequality refers to the extent to which income is distributed in an uneven manner among the population. In the United States, more than most countries, there is a growing disparity between the rich and everyone else.
Some people see that gap as unfair, but I think they are taking an understandably short-sighted view.
The subject is on full display in our presidential race, where the sheer number of candidates during the primary gave rise to gold star one-upmanship, with most contenders promising more than they could ever deliver.
Now that we’re down to basically two candidates, it’s interesting to see what they are saying — or not — about income inequality, and what they might still say in the remaining two months.
Hillary Clinton has made no bones about evening the playing field. She backs the idea of putting more money into the middle class and the impoverished. She would raise taxes on the wealthy, increase the federal minimum wage, boost infrastructure spending, provide universal pre-K, make college tuition-free and take over student debt.
Donald Trump hasn’t been quite so specific about income inequities — or anything else. Instead, he’s promising everything will be better for everyone. He’ll be the greatest president ever. We’ll be safe again. We’ll be wealthy again. “Believe me.”
The heck with specifics, full-speed ahead.
However, in recent weeks, sensing that he’s running out of time and losing in most polls, Mr. Trump has been reaching out for support from people who are also losing ground in the standings — poorer individuals for whom income inequality is a daily fact of life. It’s doubtful he’ll gain much of a foothold. He’s never walked in the shoes of the poor.
The fact is neither candidate can do much to change the dynamics of the economy, at least in terms of who benefits from it. President Obama once called the topic the defining issue of our times, but he’s had eight years to address inequality, and poor people are poorer than ever. So is the government, behind by trillions of dollars from when he came into office, thanks to egregious spending.
And therein lies the most troubling aspect of taxpayers being asked to help poor people. The government simply cannot afford to do for them what they should be doing for themselves. Individually and collectively we need stand up and grow our way out of our financial discontent.
Far too much emphasis is placed on income inequality, a societal woe for which there is no single cure.
Each of us is burdened by money at one time or another, but the most successful people are those who work hard to get what they want. A little luck doesn’t hurt, and some help along the way is a necessity. The point is, it takes all of those things to breed success.
Ironically, the ones who do succeed in America pay to prop up the system for everyone else and seldom get thanks for it.
Dennis Grubaugh is editor and partner of the Illinois Business Journal. He can be reached at [email protected] or (618) 977-6865.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH