For richer or poorer: government redistribution of wealth

Angela Knight, Contributing Writer

“Rich and Poor or Citizens All: The Ethics and Economics of Government Redistribution of Wealth” was the topoc of discussion during last Thursday’s Economics Club meeting held in Rike Hall.

Several people stated that wealth redistribution is overdone in the United Sates, and one attendee called it downright “obnoxious.”

A chart from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development  represented the United States government, of all the countries presented, as receiving a lower percentage of total taxes from the poorest 30% and a higher percentage of total taxes by the richest 30% as compared to other countries.

The chart also represented the poorest 30% of Americans as receiving the highest percentage of transfers (also known as government aid) and the richest 30% as receiving the lowest percentage of transfers. Case closed.  Or is it?
While some Economics Club participants voiced their opinions that U.S. citizens should stop complaining about an imaginary increase in wealth disparity, asking “…when is enough, enough?” recent reports indicate an aim in Congress to discontinue much of this redistribution of wealth.

Katie Wright, research associate and author for the American Progress Action Fund, wrote in an article called “House Republicans Open New Front in the War on Women” for the Center for American Progress that the House of Representatives presented a new budget for 2013 that eliminates $3.3 trillion in nutrition, healthcare, and similar aid to women and children.

Last year, Diane Sawyer and ABC News investigated the hunger in America which aired on the evening news.

A related ABC News online article, “Hunger and Children in America: a Slow and Steady Starvation” asserts dollars from earned income are just not stretching far enough.

The claim is that one in six Amercians isn’t getting enough food (Huffington Post online) and that more children are receiving a medical diagnosis of “failure to thrive” as the poverty–wealth gap widens.

Rod Irvin, a WSU Criminal Justice major, has a different take. “First off, nobody is going to eliminate the nutrition and medical care for the truly needy.”

Irvin said, “I don’t think that cutting $3.3 trillion dollars in any government program is going to result in the dire situations that are seen in other countries.”

It can be difficult to decipher whether “the rich are getting unfair tax breaks” or “the wealthy have paid their fair share and can’t support everybody” among other contradicting theories in a whole host of back-and-forth arguments.

Those regarding Thomas Jefferson’s principles and words in high esteem likely concur with the idea that taking money from one man to give it to another is inherently despicable; that promoting individual responsibility, generativity and ingenuity is the standard which to aspire, making everything else fall into its place.

Does the promotion of no government also promote hunger in the face of inadequacy?

“In my extensive overseas travels, I have worked directly with some of the poorest people on the planet. Many of them realize that they don’t have the things that we have, but also recognize that they don’t necessarily need what we have either,” Irvin said. “While we may look at these people, whether in the United States or elsewhere, we need to recognize that they do not need to have what we have and many may not want it.”

He added, “If you ask a poor subsistence farmer in rural parts of the United States, he will likely tell you that he has everything that he needs and that his family is quite happy. At the same time, we look at him and say that his family is so poor and they are in dire straits barely getting by.”
Irvin, who grew up with a very modest income in a family of eight that did not receive government aid, believes it is the way you spend what you have, not how much you have, and believes even the poorest people in America have enough.

While politicians and citizens battle out their interpretation of the tax and general welfare clauses of our Constitution, perhaps who is correct is irrelevant if the majority of our country has already decided that the well-being of the greater good is the responsibility of each individual himself.

Irvin believes that charity work, some of which he is involved in, is the way to go for society.

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