Lately I've noticed a renewed vigor amongst conservative folks, especially on TV, complaining about the Obama administration and their economic policies. One of the more famous talking heads on television was recently arguing with a guest on their show that it wasn't fair for rich folks to be taxed more than poor folks. He called it "redistribution" (as though redistribution was automatically evil in any form) and said that it was a socialist agenda... "it didn't work in Russia, it didn't work in China..." he went on. His guest kept trying to get through to him, however difficult it was for him to get a word in, that it wasn't "redistribution of funds" he was after but "redistribution of opportunity," he wanted every American to have the same opportunity for success that this super-rich talk show host had in his early years. But the host went on, "you're going to take my hard-earned money and give it to someone who isn't working as hard for it!?"
Now there's so much wrong with that statement... he assumes that people are poor because they're lazy, he assumes that there's no real scarcity in the world and that everyone has access to as much money as he's made over the years, and that our system is fundamentally perfect--anyone who works hard, despite race, gender, etc., can pull themselves up by the boot-straps. The problem is, those assumptions are simply not true in the vast majority of situations.
Now as the host and the guest bantered on, I realized that the bottom line of the host's argument was that hard work should be rewarded. And shouldn't it? I wish it were but it isn't for most people. Only the elite few get "rewarded" while the hard-working masses go pay-check to pay-check. Take, for example, the talk-show host. He sits on a chair and talks to a camera, sure he probably reads a lot, but that's basically the jist. Meanwhile, a janitor in the same building makes barely enough to feed his family in his shabby apartment in his neighborhood that's been ruined by foreclosures while putting in 12 hour shifts of cleaning bathrooms and mopping the news-room. Has hard work really been rewarded? Oh, but they're just poor 'cause they're lazy.