Wealth Inequality in America – Is family breakdown the cause?


Since my time in college, I’ve heard endless lamenting, mainly from the left, of growing income and wealth inequality in the US.  This simple fact is undeniable.  This morning on Morning Joe I heard how this inequality has grown in the US to the point where 1% of the population has over 30% of the wealth in this country.  What is the culprit?  Joe Scarborough wasn’t in today, but the panel asked if tax cuts were the main cause.  The guest explained in particular that taxes have been cut for Wall Street (AKA “the dividends rate”), and this has allowed greater, short term accumulations of wealth.  However, this article from the Wall Street Journal identifies a deeper cause than the obvious (link below).

I don’t deny that this is part of the problem, but if some people grow more wealthy, do the rest of us necessarily become less wealthy?  Is wealth so finite? If we were all growing wealthier, but inequality were increasing, I wouldn’t be concerned about it.  The middle class, however, has been shrinking over the last several decades.  Studies show time and time again that single parent households are more likely to live in poverty.  Children of single parent households are less likely to excel academically and financially as adults.  During all these discussions of income and wealth inequality, why is this never mentioned?

One thing you must understand about the left is that we are not seen as capable of solving our own problems.  If there is a problem, the government must solve it.  If there is growing wealth inequality, the solution is not for those struggling to find ways to improve their lives and increase their earning power, or make more of what they have.  No!  It’s those darned rich people!  If only the government would do something about it!  If only the government would eat the rich!  For the record, I do support raising the “dividends rate” back to 28% as it was at the end of the Reagan era.  Wall Street should pay their fair share.  But this will not solve the problem.  Reagan made them pay their fair share, yet inequality continued to increase.

I know from personal experience that marriage improves living standards, both spiritually and materially.  My wife and I are both educators, deep in student debt.  When we were single, we were both frugal people, but struggled financially.  It seemed every time I started paying off my credit cards, something would happen and I’d have to max it out again.  If I saved for a rainy day, something would happen and I’d need that money (good thing I had it).  Now that we are married, we pull our resources.  Neither us are earning more money, but we have several thousand dollars saved for emergencies, our credit is more than half way to being paid off, and I’ll be making my last car payment in July.  We’re enjoying ourselves too.  We’re not painting the town red, but we go out sometimes.  We have a few drinks, or go out to dinner, etc.  We took Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover (which I recommend to anyone) and I remember discussing how it is more difficult for single people.  They are alone, they have nobody to pull resources with, and any chance to go out – it’s hard to say “no thanks, you all have fun”.  I remember what that was like.  I remember being alone in London, going to places I wasn’t even that interested in, blowing lots of money, just because I didn’t want to be alone.

If we’d work harder to repair our relationships, repair our communities, our families, our places of worship, labor unions, civic groups; we can really get at the root of the problem.  The “Me-ism” of the baby boomer generation is the true culprit.  People get swept up in infatuation and get married.  Then they get divorced because it wasn’t the Disney fairytale they were hoping for.  Problems can be resolved people!  My old LSE Professor Rodney Barker has spent much of his life studying “Pluralism”.  The emphasis is not on government solutions, nor individualistic solutions.  The emphasis is on voluntary association with these non-governmental groups.

Me-ism is the disease.  The right combination of self-control and selflessness – this is the cure.  When we learn to live for each other again, we can prosper again.

Original article from the Wall Street Journal:


Stefan Molyneux’s critical words on baby boomers, me-ism, and entitlement


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