MORRIS: Financial success is a bad thing?

Greg Morris
May 17, 2014
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

MorrisIncome inequality is the hot topic this political season. President Obama called growing income inequality combined with the lack of opportunity for upward mobility the “defining challenge of our time.”

It’s the age-old battle between the haves and the have-nots. The rich versus the poor. It perpetuates the notion that, if you’ve done well for yourself, made some money and accumulated some wealth, you’re not a good person. Are you a 1-percenter? Shame on you. Who would have ever thought that working hard and achieving success would be considered anything but a grand achievement?

The media loves this fight. It can’t get enough. What’s a more noble cause than fighting the injustice of the rich taking advantage of the poor? It’s a script made in heaven for a media property trying to drive controversy and boost ratings. It plays well with the masses. But I believe this class-warfare pitch from the president and its constant spoon-feeding from the media is killing the ambition and motivation of millions of people. So, I decided to write a column about it.

However, a funny thing happened along the way to my column. I spent a considerable amount of time doing research and pored through a lot of reporting, data and opinion. And I found some compelling evidence that we might actually be out of balance on this equality issue. At the very least, it appears the concept of a rising tide raises all boats changed sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Since that time, rising fortunes have been concentrated mostly in the hands of a select few at the top of the food chain.

But the radical views presented in the media and the outrageous solutions offered up to reverse the widening inequality gap obscure any legitimate points to be made on this issue.

The hot buzz on this topic at the moment is created from a book written by Thomas Piketty, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” The extremists love this guy. Piketty is a professor at the Paris School of Economics. That should be a warning about his views. He believes there should be an 80-percent tax rate on incomes above $500,000, or $1 million here in the United States. Why? Well not to necessarily raise money for education or benefits, but to put an end to incomes in this range.

He also suggests a 50-percent to 60-percent tax rate on incomes as low as $200,000, an annual wealth tax as high as 10 percent on the largest fortunes, and a one-time assessment as high as 20 percent on lower levels of existing wealth.

Piketty assures all concerned that none of these things would reduce economic growth, productivity, entrepreneurship or innovation. Yeah, right. This guy is a totally off-the-charts wacko, yet he’s getting a lot of play in the media. Go figure.

More “expertise” is offered from Robert Reich. Reich was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration and is currently chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkley. He’s written 13 books and recently co-produced and starred in a film titled, “Inequality for All.”

In a recent blog, Reich gives us a few initiatives that he says can help reverse what he calls the widening inequality gap:

• Make work pay. Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

• Unionize low-wage workers (Walmart, McDonald’s, etc.).

• Invest in education. High-quality education should be free and available to all, starting at the age of 3 and extending through four years of university or technical education.

• Pay for these investments with higher taxes on the wealthy.

• Make the payroll tax progressive. Eliminate tax on the first $15,000 in income and remove the cap.

• Raise the estate tax and eliminate the “stepped-up basis” for determining capital gains at death.

• Constrain Wall Street.

My blood pressure’s acting up again. I’ve got a massive headache. And I will say that Reich did present some compelling data that gives one pause. But, yet again, his radical solutions make me avoid considering any of his potentially legitimate points.

The bottom line is, the wannabes need to stop villainizing others for being successful. Keep the negative rhetoric on income inequality to a low roar and those with differing opinions might be more willing to consider alternative points of view.•


Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to gmorris@ibj.com.


  • Feelings . . . nothing more than feelings . . .
    So, even though Piketty's book stresses that this is not the age-old haves vs. have-nots battle and shows how something quite different with income inequality is afoot, we can and should reduce the problem to protecting the feelings of the well-heeled? That they might be cajoled to listen to the legitimacy of the problem if we speak in dulcet tones and protect their egos? If we suggest that the problem can be fixed with a minimum of muss and fuss to their privilege? A reversal of devastating social misfortune for the 99% if we emphasize for the income elites all the positives for the rest of us in their advantage? Ai yi yi. The compassion and broad-mindedness on display here is truly impressive: we just have to protect the fragile feelings of rich kids and they might deign to acknowledge the intractability of the problem for the rest of us. News flash: most people "work hard." Hard work is not the key to success. In most instances, an uneven playing field and privilege are the programs running in the background.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!