NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 22, 2008

Barack Obama wants to raise taxes to "spread the wealth around" because that is "good for everyone."  But historically, the redistribution of income punishes success and rewards sloth.  Here arises a problem for Obama: he wants to spread the wealth around as if wealth and poverty and "middle-classness" were fixed categories, but they aren't.  Economic and social mobility in the United States is the norm, not the exception, says columnist Mona Charon.

In fact, the National Center for Policy Analysis found that after one year, one-third of those in the bottom quintile of income had moved up, one-quarter of those in the top group had moved down and after 10 years, 60 percent of those in the bottom had moved up, with 8 percent getting all the way to the top quintile.


  • Correspondingly, 6 percent of those in the top quintile went all the way to the bottom after 10 years, and 54 percent of those at the top had moved to some lower group 10 years later.
  • Democrats like to talk about "the rich" as if they are a fixed group of individuals, but anecdotal evidence suggests that two-third of those on the Forbes 400 list in 1994 were no longer on the list a decade later; 80 percent of those on the list were self-made.
  • People tend to begin their work lives at or near the bottom quintile; while male 21-year-olds begin at the 20 percentile in overall white men's income, by age 31, they reach the 50th percentile mark, between the ages of 31 and 59, they average near the 60th quintile and when they get close to retirement, their incomes tend to fall.

We already have a steeply progressive income tax, with the top 5 percent of earners paying 60 percent of the taxes (in 2006), and the top 25 percent paying 86 percent.  Redistributing wealth is not a move toward fairness, but rather a move toward socialism, says Charon.  

Source: Mona Charen, "Fair Taxation?", October 21, 2008; based upon: National Center for Policy Analysis.

For text:

For NCPA study:


Browse more articles on Economic Issues