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JENKINS: All 'income inequality' is not created equal

Photo by Ginny Sampson 

Photo by Ginny Sampson 

Among the startling revelations that President Obama shared in last week’s State of the Union address was this gem: Some people make more money than others.

That age-old state of affairs is known, in the new “progressive” phrase du jour, as “income inequality,” the very sound of which suggests something unjust, which we must all condemn and do whatever is in our power (read: spend any amount of money necessary) to rectify.

But before we go down that road, pile on even more debt, and damage our economy even further, perhaps we ought to ask ourselves what causes “income inequality” — and whether attempts to rectify it would actually be, well, equitable.

While it is of course true that some people make more money than others (thank you, President Sherlock), a rational person might conclude that there are logical reasons for that, none of which involve “injustice.”

For instance, “income inequality” is often a natural byproduct of ability inequality. Because here’s another bombshell for the everybody-gets-a-trophy crowd: Some people are smarter, more talented and yes, even better looking than others.

After all, there’s a reason Scarlett Johansson commands a much larger fee for making a film than, say, Kathy Bates.

There’s also such a thing as effort inequality. Some people just work harder than others. They spend more years in school, make better grades, put in longer hours, accept more challenging assignments. And yes, those people typically make more money.

The popular myth that women, for example, are paid less for doing exactly the same work as men (to which Obama also paid homage) has been thoroughly debunked by Stanford economist Thomas Sowell.

As Sowell recently pointed out, “there have been empirical studies, going back decades, showing that there is no such gap when the women and men are in the same occupation, with the same skills, experience, education, hours of work and continuous years of full-time work.”

Finally, there is the most insidious cause of “income inequality” — inequality of choice.

For example, statistics clearly show that, if you finish high school, avoid having a child out of wedlock, and get a full-time job, your chances of living in poverty in this country are practically nil. We also know that people who continue their education beyond high school tend to make more money, and those who go to graduate or professional school make even more.

Those are all choices people make.

So is our choice of occupation. I had the grades and aptitude to go to law school, but no interest. I chose teaching instead, knowing at the time it’s generally a lower-paying profession. How disingenuous would it be for me to start whining now because I don’t make as much money as a lawyer?

More to the point, how wicked would it be for me to insist that I get paid the same as a lawyer, because “it’s not fair?”

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Books for Less and on Amazon. E-mail Rob at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @FamilyManRob.