Why “Spreading the Wealth Around” Won’t Work

Robert Samuelson, writing in Newsweek:

The redistributionist argument is at best a half-truth. The larger truth is that much of the income of the rich and well-to-do comes from what they do. If they stop doing it, then the income and wealth vanish. No one gets it. It can’t be redistributed because it doesn’t exist. Everyone’s poorer.

This isn’t just theory. Last week, New York Gov. David Paterson pleaded with Congress to provide emergency aid to states. Heavily dependent on Wall Street for taxes, he testified, New York faces a $12.5 billion budget deficit next year and expects joblessness to rise by 160,000. Wall Street bonuses will drop by 43 percent and capital gains income by 35 percent, he estimated. People in New York would be better off if the securities industry were still booming, even if there were more economic inequality.

The only thing that improves by “spreading the wealth around” is politicians’ vote totals, as they gin up envy against those evil fat cats. But when the fat cats get skinned, it’s the golden goose that gets killed. We’ll all suffer then.

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