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Comments about ‘Robert Bennett: Are the rich getting richer off the poor?’

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Published: Monday, Dec. 16 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

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Roland Kayser
Cottonwood Heights, UT

The problem is not that there is too much wealth being diverted to people at the 80th percentile, which is where the top quintile starts, it's that so much is going to the top 1%. In fact even people at the 80th percentile have seen an erosion of living standards.

A better comparison is to look at the total income generated by business and see where it is going. For decades, about 2/3 of total corporate income went to wages, while 1/3 went to profits. The figure remained so constant for so long that experts assumed it must be a basic law of economics. That figure has changed considerably over the last thirty years. The amount of corporate revenue that has been diverted away from workers and into profits is equal to the total amount of taxes collected by the federal government.

This leaves a much smaller piece of the pie to be shared by workers, leading to lower incomes for all. In fact earning for working class men peaked in 1973 and have been in decline ever since.

Income inequality is like global warming, conservatives have found that the best way to deal with it is to pretend it doesn't exist.

high school fan
Huntington, UT

So which way is it? The headline that says the rich are getting richer or is it the last sentence of the second to last paragraph that says there not. To me the headline writer erred.

JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC

Surely this letter will create a firestorm on both the right and the left.

How about we use logic and reasoning instead of partisanship.

So, lets look at reality.
- Can anyone disagree that the gap in wealth between rich and poor has grown and is growing?
- Why is the gap growing? Why is the wealth collecting at the top?
- Is this growing gap good for our country?
- Will it continue?

One must honestly answer these questions before a reasonable discussion can be had.

I will go first.

-Certainly the income gap is growing. By any measure, it is undeniable.
- Why? THAT is the hard one. Hard to say that the rich are getting smarter and working harder than the poor. I see some poor people busting their tails for $8 an hour.
- The growing gap is bad for the country. Good in the short term for those at the top, but unhealthy long term for our country and our economy
- Yes it will continue. Why wouldn't it. Our country and economy is geared to the "it takes money to make money" mentality.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

The headline to Mr. Bennett's article is false and misleading. The article states exactly the opposite. At least the article is accurate when it states: "Look at annual totals. Twenty-five years ago, average annual per person spending by people in the highest quintile was two and a half times more than that by people in the lowest one. Today’s numbers — $32,054 and $13,032, respectively — are holding steady at two and a half times. The rich are not getting richer on the backs of the poor."

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

God has told us there is enough and to spare.
...and I believe him.

The problem is - as Roland Kayser points out -
The top 5% who own 80% are hoarding the wealth God has blessed this nation.

Trickle down is NOT working,
it is in fact Trickle UP.

Thid Barker
Victor, ID

Why would anyone be surprised that the poor are getting poorer? The only reason the poor are getting poorer is because government programs make it easier to be poor and to keep on being poor. Its called dependency! The number of Americans on food stamps climbed to an all-time high last year, according to data released by the Department of Agriculture (more poor people). If welfare reduced or prevented poverty, given the trillions of taxpayer dollars we have thrown at poverty, there would be no poverty! Instead of helping people not be poor anymore, government welfare enables poverty! I am convinced this is by design, because Democrats never met a welfare program they don't love and people on welfare vote for Democrats! Liberal Democrats need poor people so they purposely create more of them. What do liberals propose? More welfare, redistribution and "social justice" which as we have seen and will see, increases dependency and poverty grows.
If we want to decrease the number of poor people in America, stop enabling poverty!

Cats
Somewhere in Time, UT

Liberals are always trying to find different ways to divide up the pie instead of growing the pie. They don't mind if the poor are poorer as long as the rich are poorer, too. What we need is lower taxes and lower regulations to encourage a much bigger growing pie. More growth and opportunity is what leads to a bigger pie and greater prosperity for all.

pragmatistferlife
salt lake city, utah

I'm sorry but I fail to see how spending determines wealth. If I have 100 times the wealth of an average person it's safe to think that I not only spend more than the mythical average person but that I spend what I want, on what I want. I don't have many if any restrictions on what I spend.

Like wise, if I have a 1,000 the wealth of an average person I likely spend what I want, when I want, on what I want. Why would I spend ten times more when I have 1000 times the average than when I have 100 times the average if at 100 I have everything I want when I want it? I simply spend as I always have as I get more, I just have more left over. Which btw does reflect reality.

It's absolutely logical to think that the spending ratio is holding steady, yet it tells you nothing about wealth accumulation.

Notice Robert doesn't mention a soaring stock market with a shrinking stock market participation by the average Joe or in I think it was 2011 123% of wage increases went to the top 1%. Yes 123% is more than was produced.

Fred44
Salt Lake City, Utah

Cats,

Radical republicans are always trying to create a bigger pie so that the wealthy can siphon off more profit. Only a fool would believe that an increase in profit translates into an increase in wages for those at the bottom of the food chain.

Mr. Bennett's premise that spending is an indication of wealth is really interesting. Wealthy people are increasing their wealth at a record pace, and pulling that increase out of circulation, therefor making how much the spend in comparison to lower income people completely irrelevant. Lower and middle income people put all their money back into circulation trying to survive and maybe just maybe have a few extra's.

A better indicator would be to look at savings for each classification rather than spending and measure the differences.

chilly
Salt Lake City, UT

I don't often defend Bennett. But, I'm certain he didn't write the headline for the piece: "The rich are getting richer off the poor". In fact the paper edition has a different title entirely: "The rich are not exploiting the poor".

JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC

"Liberals are always trying to find different ways to divide up the pie instead of growing the pie."

And conservative only idea for "growing the pie" is lower tax rates.
And it does not matter what the tax rate is to conservatives, the only answer is LOWER.

We hear how Reagan lowered taxes and the economy grew. Well, Mr Reagan's predominant tax rate was 50%. But, we hear today that 39% is a job killer. So, what is a reasonable tax rate?

I actually think that your typical liberal want to level the playing field, rather than take from the wealthy.

Corporations are designed to maximize profits. And that is a good thing, up to the point of unscrupulous tactics. Want less regulations? Hold the corporate decision makers personally responsible when they cross the line. Dont fine the corporation. Jail the offenders.

We could quickly get rid of most regulation.

Nate
Pleasant Grove, UT

If we sink everyone's boat, they do all reach the same level.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

The facts don't matter to some people. Bob Bennett clearly and absolutely told us that "Today’s numbers — $32,054 and $13,032, respectively — are holding steady at two and a half times." That doesn't fit their agenda. They're so very certain that government has the right to take from the producer and give to the non-producer that they refuse to read the facts.

Nothing has changed in 25 years except that their "hero", Obama, has promised them that some "rich guy" will pay their way through life. Obama knows that if he told people to grow up and become responsible - as Kennedy taught us - that he would have never been elected. He is the champion of the "poor" who have been taught by government since the days of FDR that some "rich guy" owes them a living. They are told that that "rich guy" will risk everything he has so that they don't have to. That's what they want. They believe in receiving their bread from the efforts of others, instead of from the "sweat of their brow".

Thid Barker
Victor, ID

I grew up in real poverty but in this wonderful country of opportunity, I worked my way through college via low paying jobs and very long hours. I never took a dime from the government or anyone else. I worked my rear end off, gained some marketable job skills, worked hard to be productive, innovative and creative at my jobs. In order for my employers to keep my creativity talents, they paid me well! I could have become a "victim" and sat out my life waiting for my next welfare check and I would have only existed physically but I would have missed the joys achievement and personal growth. I tell you this not to boast but to point out that in America, anyone can become rich, if the government would just stop punishing success and achievement. If the government continues to reward laziness, bad choices, and failure we will have much more poverty and much less prosperity.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

Our U.S. economy works like this simple example:
Put five people in a circle.
Give one a store keeper a dollar and ask him to buy things from the others and pass it around.
He buys a loaf of bread,
The baker then takes that same dollar at buy wheat,
The wheat farmer takes it and buys clothes, fuel and equipment,
The store keeper then takes it and buys another loaf of bread.

Notice, the more it is passed around the circle the more everyone has from that one dollar.

Now ask someone to put that dollar in their pocket.
Wow, the four others just went broke!

$21 Trillion has been pulled out of the U.S. economy and squirreled it away in Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts.

It is not being invested --
hiring, stocks, bonds, or capital of any sort -- let alone being SPENT.

It is simply pulled out of the system and not being used [see, usury] out of greed.

I repeat --
God has given us enough and too spare.
We need to address the Gadianton Master Mahan's who have squandered all that "gain".

Cats
Somewhere in Time, UT

It has been proved throughout history time and time again. The freer the economy, the less government interference, the greater the prosperity for everyone. Hong Kong is a perfect example and there are many others. I realize that truth is very inconvenient for the agendas of those who think they are entitled to the redistribution of the wealth of others. In fact, the greatest income equality exists in economies with the greatest freedom and the least government interference. Honestly, some of you people need to take econ 101.

Invisible Hand
Provo, UT

Mr. Bennett missed a big point that Roland astutely pointed out. It's the top 1% that is benefiting disproportionately. I won't argue that this is a bad thing. We should have more freedom, and let the chips fall where they may. Nobody should resent guys like Jobs for getting rich because all of our lives are better thanks to them.

However, some of the top 1% are parasitic rent-seekers who maintain a high income through political influence at society's expense. The Federal Reserve prints trillions of dollars that filters through the banking industry. It's Obama's version of "trickle down economics". But most of it collects on balance sheets of big financial institutions owned by the super-rich, while the inevitable inflation is a disproportionate burden on the poor and middle class.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

Income inequality should not in and of itself be troubling, as long as the “pie is getting bigger” and those at the bottom are not both growing in number and their spending power is not declining relative to that same demographic (the poor) in decades past.

What is troubling is how the wealth at the top is growing and the productive (or not) uses that wealth is being steered towards. The growth of the financial sector suggests that some significant portion of the wealth being created is simply carving up an existing pie.

Bob is right to point to wealth creation as the driver of an economy and living standards but he is wrong to omit (can’t fault him too much since it’s the R Party line) that the WAY wealth is being created matters.

We could change the tax code tomorrow in a way that would be revenue neutral but would fundamentally change our economy and revive the middle class – namely, reduce the corporate tax rate to zero on all productive activities while raising the rate on distributions (unless reinvested), passive income, inherited wealth, etc…

JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC

" The freer the economy, the less government interference, the greater the prosperity for everyone"

That sounds great. And it works very well to an extent.. But with unfettered, unregulated capitalism we would have polluted water and air, unsafe food, one oil company and one airline and only the banks and the very wealthy would own everything.

Tell me what regulations you think are good? Any?

"In fact, the greatest income equality exists in economies with the greatest freedom and the least government interference. Honestly, some of you people need to take econ 101."

What do you base that on? By one measure, the GINI coefficient, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Austria have the most "income equality". Do you sincerely think these countries have the "greatest freedom and least government interference"?

These are some of the most "liberal" countries in the world.

At least make an attempt to support your assertion.

Instereo
Eureka, UT

Two percent of 1 million is 20,000. Two percent of 10,000 is 200. Mr. Bennett wrote his article using percents to disguise what the differences between the rich and the poor are.

He then talked about the differences in living costs. That is also a misrepresentation of what is happening. Does living costs only include basic housing, food, and transportation? It's not clear in the article what it does include. I'm sure with only basic living expenses calculated there would only be a difference of 2 1/2 times but most of the poor have one home and the rich could have multiple homes and multiple other things not considered basic that aren't even considered in the calculations.

Finally to blame Obama for his take on the numbers is nothing more than the partisan politics that have dominated and divided our society for generations since FDR, maybe even longer.

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