Monday, December 23, 2013

If You Really Cared About Income Inequality - Tea Party Prescription

I have been stewing about the President's latest "pivot," this time to income inequality, for a while.  First, it isn't necessarily a problem. Second, Obama has no real solutions.  Income inequality is a problem per se, it depends on the source of the inequality.  If it is caused by a privileged class entrenching its grip on a not-so-free economy, like crony capitalist third-world economies, then this is fundamentally unfair.  But if caused by the inevitable winners and losers in a free-market economy, then we shouldn't care so much, in fact, we should rejoice that our system rewards endeavor.

By the way, actual income inequality is NOT increasing.  The welfare state and progressive taxation have vastly reduced the gap between the poor and everyone else.
According to Messrs. Ohanian and Hagopian, once the effect of taxes and transfer payments is taken into account, "inequality actually declined 1.8% during the 16-year period between 1993 and 2009, when the Gini coefficient dropped from .395 to .388."
Unfortunately, government policies are increasing pre-tax/pre-entitlement inequality (as defined as "earned income" inequality for this discussion).  There is some real evil going on that could be addressed to improve actual fairness and improve economic growth.  Here are some liberty movement suggestions.

End the Fed and Return to a Gold Standard.  The Federal Reserve lends Wall Street bands money at below market rates that they use to fund loans.  This is supposed to help the economy, but it just concentrates wealth in Wall Street which then gets bailed out when it makes bad bets.  If you want to really stop the shenanigans that funnel wealth to people who don't produce anything, return to the gold standard and disband the federal reserve system.

The biggest source of income inequality.

Stop Raising the Minimum Wage.  Raising the minimum wage reduces the opportunity for lower skilled and teens to enter the workforce and start making their way up the economic ladder.  Moving people into the workforce begins lifelong upward mobility. By raising the minimum wage, we keep youth out of the labor market.

Introduce Competition into Education. Students are graduating from college and high school without discernible skills that allow them to enter the work force.  This was not alway so.  There was a time when a high school diploma indicated familiarity with basic math, reading and writing skills and at least a rudimentary knowledge of science.  No more.  Employers can no longer count on even college graduates being able to perform basic tasks needed in business.  This is the result of a century of monopoly in education.  Government schools have failed us.  Competition would restore the incentives for parents to be involved in education choices for their kids, and the result would cause employers to start to trust diplomas again.

Fix Immigration Policy to Favor Skilled Immigrants.  Amnesty for unskilled farm laborers is the opposite of this idea.  The United States is still the land of opportunity when compared to the rest of the world, even if our absolute level of opportunity has declined under Obama's leftist policies.  Bringing skilled immigrants to our country allows various tech teams to stay together and provides all sorts of additional jobs for native Americans as well.  However, if we limit immigration to unskilled farm workers, then we are bending the income curve to increase inequality.  If the President really care about income inequality he would have included a vast expansion of H-1B and other avenues to bring the skilled and wealthy, because he is such a smart policy dude.  Unfortunately, he did not.

Repeal the ACA.  There are plenty of incentives for people at the lower end of the income ladder to reduce their income in order to qualify for subsidies, including married couples getting divorced to reduce their household income.  The ACA is contributing to a rise in inequality by reducing the incentives for those in lower to middle income brackets to increase their income.

Of course, the President isn't really serious.  He is just making another speech about something he chose to ignore for five years, much like immigration.  But if we would like a larger middle class and economic growth, then my tea party policies should be considered.

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