Friday, October 21, 2011

Kill Robin Hood

I swear, I'm going to bitch-slap the next jerk who complains that the gap between the rich and the poor is getting bigger all the time. Anyone who passed third-grade math can understand why, on the simplest level, this is wrong. And anyone who passed seventh-grade math can understand why, on the the more complex level, this is wrong.

Here's the third-grade explanation:

There is a limit to how poor you can get. That limit is known as zero. If you own absolutely nothing, you have zero. Even that panhandler asking for spare change that you just walked by has more than zero: he has the clothes on his back and the seventy-five cents in his pocket.

But there's no limit to how rich you can get. Everyone knows that.

So there's a limit to how little you can have, but there's no limit to how much. So the gap between zero and the max has to increase as long as people are creating wealth. The gap will only stop increasing when people stop creating wealth. If your income increases by ten cents next year and mine doesn't increase at all, OMG!!! More income inequality!!! Eleventy!!!111!!!11!

Here's the seventh-grade explanation:

Paul Poor is making $20,000 a year working the fry vat at the local Bun 'n' Run. Meanwhile Rose Rich is pulling down $100,000 as an IT program manager.

Rose and Paul both do their jobs well, so their bosses give them both a raise. Rose gets a two percent raise, while Paul gets five percent.

Wow! Paul's getting a much bigger raise than Rose! But if you do a little seventh-grade math, you see that Paul's five percent raise puts $1,000 a year more (before taxes) in his pocket, while Rose's smaller percentage raise gives her $2,000 more.

Dammit, the income inequality gap is still growing, even though Paul got a bigger percentage raise than Rose. Paul would have to get a ten percent raise to actually see as much extra money as Rose, or, alternatively, Rose would have to get only a one percent raise to get as little as Paul. Or maybe Rose should be sent to a re-education camp or be guillotined, as some have suggested (see link below).

This is the way things work in the real world.Some people make more than others, because the work they do is worth more.

What the complainers fail to mention is that, in the real world, Paul is probably significantly younger than Rose. That means he probably hasn't moved as far up the career ladder as Rose has. Rose didn't start out making $100,000 a year, even if her college degree was in computer science. And in the real world, Rose's opportunities for career advancement are probably a lot more limited than Paul's, simply because she's a lot higher up the career hierarchy (not to mention a lot older) than Paul is. In a couple of years, Paul well might be the manager of the Bun 'n' Run, making double or triple what he makes at the fry vat. Rose, on the other hand, is very unlikely to double her salary without becoming her company's chief information officer.

The complainers seem to think that:
  • once you make a low salary, you will always make a low salary;
  • once you make a high salary, you will always make a high salary;
  • people who make high salaries somehow did it by stealing from people making low ones.
I don't want to live in a country where there is no income inequality. Because that's a country that says that everyone's work is worth the same, whether you're working the fry vat or managing an IT project. That's a country where people think the government should prevent income inequality by deciding how much people should be allowed to make. That was tried in a 75-year-long experiment known as communism, and the results were catastrophic.

(Roseanne Barr thinks this is a great idea, though she seems to be a little undecided as to whether we should emulate the French Revolution or Cambodia's Killing Fields...)

If Paul Poor doesn't like the fact that he doesn't make as much money as Rose Rich, he should learn how to do something that society values more than cooking French fries. Having a degree in something other than Native American Transgendered Women's Studies might help.

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