Good News, Bad News

The latest government figures show that the income of the richest 1 percent grew by 275 percent, starting in the Reagan years until right before the onset of the current economic crisis, while it edged up by only 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent.

A liberal will say this is mostly bad news, because the income gap widened. Such folks seemingly would rather have everyone lose ground instead of some people getting rich faster than others. Their solution is to tax the rich at ever more “progressive” rates to close the gap.

A conservative will say this is mostly good news, because all incomes rose. What matters, they would say, is not the size of the gap, but the fact that nearly everyone made economic gains. The key is economic mobility, not economic inequality. And besides, they would add, people in the various economic groups are not fixed in them for life; the poor can become rich and the rich, poor.

As a conservative, the second set of arguments makes more sense, but, like the liberal, I am concerned by the gap. I have been in countries where most people were poor and what wealth there was was concentrated at the very top, among the super-rich. A strong society needs a strong and growing middle class. Unfortunately, I’m assuming the income gap has grown even more in the current crisis, and the middle class has become even more squeezed than before.

The gap is bad news not because some people have more; this is to be expected in a free, capitalist society. It is bad because it means that fewer and fewer people in the middle and at the bottom have the skills and experience they need to get ahead.

That’s why I think the Occupy Wall Street crowd is missing the point. They should be angry, not at the bankers who gave them their student loans, but at the unions and their enablers in the Democratic Party who basically have conspired, through their policies, to foist on them ever more expensive but increasingly useless educations that have left them unprepared for the world as it is.

Barack Obama’s plan to make it easier to escape the burden of student loans will do nothing to change this dynamic.

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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