Income Disparity? What's the Big Deal?
I get more than a little cheesed when I hear the Ron Siders and Jim Wallises of the world (evangelical lefties, if you didn’t know) talk about how “income disparity” is an outrage that Christians ought to be concerned with. I believe that the proper response, in the original Greek, is “baloney”. But it’s become a popular thing to say, to suggest that the more the “gap” grows between the richest of the rich, and the poor, the more we Christians should be concerned about it, and do…something…to “fix” the problem (of course, the “solutions” offered involve income redistribution, taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor).
I suggest that the root of the concern over “income disparity” is one of two things: godless envy, or ignorance. I’ll be gracious and extend to Jim and Ron the latter motive as likely. But in case you need a good test to give to those who carp about this non-issue, set up the following hypothetical, and ask the following questions:
A man has devised a widget that will change the life of people the world over; he cannot build and sell these things fast enough, and so he offers this proposal: every person making under $40K a year will automatically be hired by his firm and given a salary of $80K/year to build these widgets, and every person between $40K and $80K will be hired as well and given that $80K salary. Every poor person in America will be employed by his company, and thus every person in America will have as a base income $80K a year. This will at least double the income–and corresponding standard of living–for every person who is poor or even lower middle class in America. Every single one. Question 1: Would you go for that arrangement? Would that be a good thing? Wouldn’t we all like to see the standard of living of every single poor person doubled? I mean, that’s a no-brainer, right? It certainly is if you care about the poor; if we could lift everyone’s standard of living that far, we’d all want to do it, right?
The “man” is Bill Gates, and he represents a consortium of the 500 richest people in America, who have all invested in this enterprise, and they expect to become much, much richer through this project. In fact, they conservatively project that, as a group, they will experience, not a doubling of their income like the poor folks, but a five-fold increase in their income. In other words, the “income disparity” between rich and poor will grow significantly. Question 2: Do you still go for it? And your answer will tell the story. If you say “no”, then something is wrong with you. You mean to say that, given the opportunity to lift everyone out of poverty, you’d not take it because it would mean that the richest of the rich would become much, much richer, and the “income gap” would grow exponentially? That’s called envy, a godless sin, and your disdain for the poor would be appalling. If you say “yes”, then stop this ridiculous carping about this utterly irrelevant “issue” called “income disparity”, because it is not the issue at all. Not one whit. Period. It does not impact me one iota what Bill Gates makes, and if he makes it honestly, more power to him. What I care about is being free to make whatever money I make honestly; let my abilities, my hard work, etc., be the determiners of what my income is. I know that’s a bit simplified, but at the core, that’s the way it ought to be, whether Bill Gates and Warren Buffett make a trillion dollars or end up bankrupt.