Dilbert creator Scott Adams has an interesting thought over at his blog:
Suppose you could snap your fingers and instantly reduce the huge disparity in income distribution across the globe. Would you do it?
Many of you will probably say yes. You'd take some of the "extra" money from the rich and use it to help the needy. But suppose I put one condition on this magic power of yours. Suppose the only thing you can do by magic is reduce by half the wealth of the top 1% while knowing the money would be transferred to no one. The money would simply cease to exist. The rich would have half as much, while everyone else remained the same. Would you use your powers then?
Of course he's right that burning half of Person A's money doesn't make Person B's life any better, but it's ludicrous to say that taking some of Person A's money and giving it to Person B wouldn't help make Person B's situation more comfortable. On the other hand giving Person B the money doesn't guaranatee he'll be any happier – money can't buy happiness and all that – but you can almost guarantee that Person B won't be any better off if Person A keeps all the money and helps engineer a system that insures that Person B won't have a chance to earn more money this year, next year and the years beyond.
Adams seems to be addressing the whole Occupy Wall Street – The 1% vs. The Rest of Us phenomenon, and focusing on the actual income disparity between the two groups in the process. That's a mistake. The real issue people have is with a system that appears rigged to insure that wealth continues to flow disproportionately to the already wealthy, and often to the detriment to those they employ.
How can people not be enraged by a situation where executives garner huge financial rewards by running their companies for short term stock gains, without an eye towards long term health, and then walk away as their companies lay of thousands of employees in order to avoid bankruptcy? How can they not be disgusted by an economic/governmental system that rewards the executives who mismanaged their massive financial institutions to the point that it almost crashed the world economy? How can they not want to find a way to redistribute money from hedge fund managers who made their billions by not giving a flip about the common weal as they played with the economy like it was their own private bingo game?
Isn't it funny how you don't hear anyone complaining about how much the local car dealer, community banker, or restauranteur is making? No one cares because they can see what that person is contributing to the community, but that's not the case with the vast majority of the 1%, because most of them are perceived as leaches on the economy rather than contributors to it. That's probably not a fair assessment across the board, but in this world perception is reality and that's the perception many folks have of the 1% and that's why Adams' argument won't hold much water with the 99%.