Home
In this issue
December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 7, 2007 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan 5768

Out of it

By Paul Greenberg


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It's time I faced it. There some things that are just beyond my limited understanding. Like the latest hubbub over the concentration of wealth in American society. It happens every time the economy has a growth spurt. Naturally those at the top, often enough the entrepreneurs and investors who made the growth possible, reap the benefits. As in the 1920s, aka the Roaring Twenties. Or throughout the late 19th century as the country underwent perhaps its most intense period of economic development. The more wealth is created, the more envy.


The latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau confirms that there hasn't been so great a difference between the incomes of the richest and poorest Americans since, well, since the Census Bureau began measuring income inequality some 40 years ago. The highest-earning fifth of the American population now accounts for slightly over half (50.4 percent) of all U.S. household income, while the bottom fifth earned only 3.4 percent of total U.S. income in the year being measured (2005).


Yet real median annual household income — the midpoint of all American incomes — rose in 2005 by 1.1 percent to $46,326. The income of the top fifth of American earners rose by 2 percent, bringing their mean annual income up to $159,583. While the mean annual income for the bottom 20 percent of American earners rose 0.6 percent to $10,587. Result: the percentage of Americans living below the poverty level fell slightly — by 0.1 percent — to 12.6 percent of the population.


What these figures mean, if anything, or how fair or accurate they may be, or how much they reflect the effects of immigration or single-parent households or technological change all that can be left to economists and sociologists to argue over.


But this much is for sure: Separate but equally partisan politicians — and pundits — will make the most of the numbers they carefully select to buttress their own prejudices. The only thing this flood of data means to me is that the rich keep getting richer while the poor get a little richer, too. So this is news in America?


Others may get excited debating the significance of these latest stats, but my first reaction to them was to get another cup of coffee in a vain attempt to stay awake. I know there is something about economic inequality that is supposed to rile Americans, and indeed it does, almost instinctively. But I find it hard to summon up the expected ire. What does it matter to me if other folks' income is up so long as mine increases, too?


Of course great wealth, like great power of any kind, can be abused. That's why we have criminal laws and a plethora of economic regulations. But it is the very existence of great wealth that seems to offend some of our politicians and various others with a gift for agitation. Me, I figure all those wealthy entrepreneurs and successful investors are providing more jobs, higher incomes and greater opportunities for the rest of us.


There must be something wrong with me. I find it hard to resent the Bill Gateses and Warren Buffets of the world, or the Tysons and Waltons here in Arkansas, for that matter. I just wish we had more such. On the theory that we'd all benefit by their investments and philanthropy.


Tocqueville depicted democracy in America as a constant tension between liberty and equality. Things haven't changed all that much since the 1830s, when he pointed out that policies which favor liberty for the individual tend to discourage equality in the whole society.


It would take a far-seeing statesman like James Madison to argue in the Federalist Papers that a proper constitution would restrain democracy's leveling tendencies so it might support rather than subvert individual liberty.


Whenever figures likes these from the Census Bureau come out, we're all supposed to be disturbed about the growing gap between rich and poor, or even upper-middle and lower-middle, but I'm still waiting for someone to explain why. And not just repeat vague pieties about the need to keep everybody roughly as rich, or rather as poor, as everybody else.


A professor at Syracuse University, Arthur Brooks, notes, "income is just one item of importance in the lives of Americans. There are many others — from love to faith to happiness — that we care about, some of them far more."


Certainly no one sane cares about only money. Whatever the distribution of American income, Professor Brooks notes, survey after survey indicates that Americans are among the happiest and most optimistic of peoples. Maybe because most of us know money is important but not all-important.


The view that life is good in these United States must be widely shared, for so many elsewhere are trying to make it in — while few if any Americans are rushing to get out.


No wonder the politics of envy doesn't work as well here as in other places. Are we really supposed to be unhappy because somewhere in this country others are richer or happier than we are?


It may not be done to admit it, but Americans are basically a forward-looking, enterprising and confident lot who aren't much for envying the rich. Especially since we hope to join them someday.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

Paul Greenberg Archives

© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles