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Gregg: The real gap isn’t about wealth

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We often hear these days, from President Obama and his chorus on the left, that there is massive income inequality in America and that he and his minions are committed to correcting this situation.

It is an interesting observation.

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It means that after almost six years of control of the presidency and the majority of the government, those who anointed themselves to resolving the problem now implicitly — but never explicitly — acknowledge that they have failed to do so.

Why after six years of a liberal-progressive government that has taxed high-income folks at historically high rates and redistributed the money, has this issue of alleged income inequality gotten worse?

If this were a business confronting an issue so precisely seen by its leaders, one would presume those leaders would be out of work for not having come up with an effective solution.

But they are not in business; they are the government, where there is no actual accountability.

The president and his followers accept no blame and continue to shout “injustice,” hoping no one notices that they are in charge.

If one gives the president and his spokespeople, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the benefit of the doubt (and the doubt is considerable) on their claims that America is uniquely unjust in its wealth distribution, then why are their policy approaches such an abysmal failure?

First, we must examine the basis of their assumption. They seem to genuinely believe that it is not individuals who generate and create economic growth and thus wealth, but rather they themselves, the elected elite and their bureaucracy.

But in America today, the truly wealthy are for the most part the greatest producers of growth, jobs and productivity in the world’s history .

Just a few names make the point: Mark Zuckerberg; Bill Gates; Larry Ellison; and Steve Jobs, before his death. These are the folks who have developed the ideas and products that have kept the U.S. economy on the cutting edge of world growth.

Under the Democratic Party’s now dominant philosophy, they are people who must be vilified under the label of “too wealthy .”

This may be good political rhetoric but it fuels bad economics. And, when pursued in policy terms, it leads to a bad outcome for the millions of Americans whose jobs and personal prosperity have benefitted from the products these super-wealthy people have originated.

Thus the number one thing our friends on the left should do is abandon their vicious class warfare campaign. Instead, they ought to embrace the idea that extraordinary success is a unique attribute of America’s historical lead in world prosperity.

After they have set down their lances of hate for the wealthy, they might go back to nurturing the culture and values that allow these people to appear with such regularity on the American landscape.

First, opportunity.

America, like no place else in this world of billions of people, gives the individual the chance to make a difference for him or herself, and for the others that his or her ideas touch and affect.

Second, education, which is a prerequisite for opportunity.

Since our founding, it has been a core rule of our society that our people need to have access to education. This does not mean that all folks end up being well educated. But it does mean that generally everyone should have a chance to reach that level.

Historically, the public education system has been responsible for the main educational building blocks: elementary and secondary education. Unfortunately, over time this system has been driven into disrepair.

There are many reasons for this. One of them is that teachers unions have tried to dumb-down the system so that their membership is not pressed regarding their effectiveness, or lack thereof.

Public schools have departed from teaching the basics needed to succeed.

If the president and his promoters of class differences really wished to correct this issue as they define it, they should begin by fixing our public education system.

Third, there is the simple issue of a government that has become so expensive and irresponsible, both in its funding structure and its regulatory structure, that any given individual’s dream of succeeding can be suffocated.

If these folks who are crying that America is unjust want to make it more just, they should try opting for “less”: less punitive rates, fewer tax rules, fewer deductions, fewer exemptions and fewer pages of incoherent tax interpretation.

They should also try less “regulation” of people; in particular, productive people. On the left, they believe that a just society can be created by regulating it.

But it is not a few self-appointed folks who populate some federal building that give people the chance to succeed. Freedom, opportunity, personal drive and ingenuity do that. In a few cases, those values even enable a few people to become — may the left forgive them — exceptionally wealthy.

Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.