Rand Paul: Economic inequality exists because some people work harder than others

In explaining on Sunday how his flat tax plan will avoid exacerbating economic inequality — which it totally will — Rand Paul explained that the only reason such inequality exists is that some people work harder than others.

Said Paul, quoted by the Huffington Post:

The thing is, income inequality is due to some people working harder and selling more things,” Paul told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “If people voluntarily buy more of your stuff, you’ll have more money.”

This is an abundantly stupid assertion, especially for a self-described libertarian such as Paul.

In this framework, a unit of work should be worth the same no matter who produces it, and if it takes you twice as long to produce that unit you deserve half the pay. You learn in the first week of microeconomics that this isn’t how the free market works. The market values different goods and services at different levels; a unit of productivity for an entry-level worker at Burger King is valued less than a unit of productivity for an entry-level worker at, say, a construction site or a consulting firm. So in a free market system, inequality is inevitable as a function of diverse labor. Two workers, exerting equal effort, will earn different amounts of money depending on what they’re working on.

Rand Paul, via Wikimedia Commons

Rand Paul, via Wikimedia Commons

Paul almost got around to saying something to that effect when he told Chris Wallace later in the interview that “We all end up working for people who are more successful than us,” but he said so in the context of repeating the trickle-down truism that success at the top produces gains on the bottom, a truism that’s been debunked here, here and here.

Instead, his comments are yet another refusal on the part of a Republican presidential candidate to acknowledge how wages have stagnated, despite steadily-increasing productivity, over the last forty years. His comments are only slightly different from Jeb Bush’s earlier claim that Americans need to “work longer hours” in order to grow the economy.

Both Bush and Paul’s assertions completely ignore any other systemic factors that produce inequality, starting with the steady erosion of organized labor and ending with corporate executives increasing their own pay on a whim.

There are a lot of reasons why Americans’ economic outlooks are head-deskingly unequal. Lack of effort isn’t one of them.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • 2karmanot

    Bingo

  • 2karmanot

    Very Like These so called professional Republican posers are dangerous. I’m thinking of Marcus Bachman and his Cracker Jack PhD bought on the Internets.

  • The_Fixer

    This is absolutely brain-dead “logic.”

    His advancement of this ridiculous idea reflects how little he knows, or wants to know, about economics.

    Work more hours? Work harder? I know a young lady who works 3 retail jobs just to keep her head above water and to try to stash a few bucks in the bank. Does Rand suggest that she get a fourth job?

    This guy has no business being in any government position, other than dog catcher. If he were doing that for a living, I would have to wonder if he ever would be able to catch dogs.

    Not the brightest bulb in the fixture, that’s for sure.

  • The_Fixer

    This is absolutely brain-dead “logic.”

    His advancement of this ridiculous idea reflects how little he knows, or wants to know, about economics.

    Work more hours? Work harder? I know a young lady who works 3 retail jobs just to keep her head above water and to try to stash a few bucks in the bank. Does Rand suggest that she get a fourth job?

    This guy has no business being in any government position, other than dog catcher. If he were doing that for a living, I would have to wonder if he ever would be able to catch dogs.

    Not the brightest bulb in the fixture, that’s for sure.

  • crazymonkeylady

    I busted my back after 30 years of being a nurse. I have worked harder in a year than this privileged little turd blossom has in his whole life.

  • ComradeRutherford

    “We’re all pawns, m’dear.”

    – Number 112, The Prisoner

  • ComradeRutherford

    “some people working harder”

    Harder at stealing money from their employees.

  • Bill_Perdue

    You just don’t get it. The declines in the early 1980’s were caused by Carter’s union busting and deregulation. They cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Union busting is common to both parties. Reagan busted PATCO. Obama busted the UAW. He’s trying to bust the Chicago teachers union.

    http://labornotes.org/2012/09/chicago-teachers-head-toward-strike-democrats-turn-their-union

    http://www.kclabor.org/week_in_review_labor_day_special.htm

    Why do you continue to pretend that I blame it all on Obama. I blame Carter, Reagan, the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama. Union busting is a bipartisan thing. Liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans are the enemies of working people. Democrats are often worse, as in the case of Obama, because they can get away with more.

    Carter, deregulation, union busting and the 1980’s.

    Orlando Sentinel 05 25 1986 “The Jan. 1, 1984, breakup of the giant Bell System shrunk what had been the world’s largest telephone monopoly to one-third its previous size. AT&T was sent spinning into a world of non-union competitors and cheap imports…. Bearing the brunt of that cost-cutting has been the CWA, which represents 155,000 AT&T workers. Since 1983, the company has reduced its non-management work force by 42,000 through layoffs, attrition and early retirement.” Carter initiated the breakup of Ma Bell and of transportation unions even if some of the effects took place during the Reagan regime.

    Railway Age (a management magazine) “By stripping away needless and costly regulation in favor of marketplace forces wherever possible, this act will help assure a strong and healthy future for our nation’s railroads and the men and women who work for them…” Jimmy Carter, on signing the Staggers Act .http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/blog/Page-3.html

    Mac Fleming, President, Brotherhood Of Maintenance Of Way Employees” The railroads used the Staggers Act to massively cut jobs throughout the industry, shamelessly shedding thousands upon thousands of miles of track, creating short lines that were thinly disguised creations of the big roads at that time. http://www.bmwe.org/journal/2001/05may/C2.htm

  • Thom Allen

    Some people DO work harder than others and don’t get rewarded nearly enough. And some people work much less hard and get the gravy. Like a certain Senator who repeatedly plagiarized speeches rather than writing his own. Like an ophthalmologist who founded his own “accrediting” board rather than study and taking an exam. Or the college student who spent time playing Aqua Buddha rather than studying. Yes, Dr. Paul, give us another good example.

  • keirmeister

    I would suppose this would be an agree-to-disagree situation, but the problem I have is with the logic of your assertion.

    Here’s the BLS data for the past 30 years:
    http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2013/images/ted_20130124a.png

    Here’s another view:
    http://s3.amazonaws.com/content.washingtonexaminer.biz/web-producers/012315UnionCommentarySector.jpg

    See that downward trend? Notice it starts steeply in 1983 and continues a more gradual rate of decline? How can you logically say Obama is worse than Reagan with respect to unions? Has Obama busted a union? Reagan did! What you’re saying isn’t even supported by your own data.

    The thing is, not helping a union for a particular issue is not the same as actively trying to destroy them. Your conclusion is opinion (as mine is in the long run), but your assertion makes no logical sense. You’re blaming weak union membership – a trend that has been going on for DECADES – on a president that has simply presided over its continued decline. That does not make him a union buster by any stretch.

  • nicho

    I don’t understand this statement:

    This is an abundantly stupid assertion, especially for a self-described libertarian such as Paul.

    Libertarianism is an abundantly stupid attempt at a political/economic theory. For libertarianism to work, one thing that is necessary is that the original distribution of goods in society had to be fair — and all subsequent transactions had to be fair.

    That’s just absurd. Didn’t happen; can’t happen; won’t happen. Libertarianism is a hare-brained utopian fantasy that appeals to the sophomoric mind.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The data supports the conclusion, not your denial.

  • Robin Eublind

    Rand should sell this Art Laffer/ Ayn Rand fantasy to all the employees of investor return centered companies owned by leveraged buyout/hostile takeover investment firms who are laid off every forth quarter so the investment firm can make their nut for all their investors. Sell it to the college educated ‘manager’ at the discount dollar store who works for minimum wage and receives no overtime pay because he’s ‘exempt’. Tell that to the single mother who attempts to juggle three or more part time jobs because none of them will offer her full time status because then they would have to offer her benefits. Nevermind that none of her three employers will give her any concession to allow her to coordinate the three jobs more easily because each employer feels THEY should be her number one priority.

    Rand, most of us outgrew Ayn Rand before we even finished our freshman year at university. What’s your excuse?

  • JaneE

    If you know any of the working poor, you are already aware that they work far more and often far harder than most of their middle class, higher paid peers. As a general rule, I have found that the more you are paid the less you actually work or produce. Supervisors are always paid better than their workers, and some couldn’t begin to do the job they supervise even in an emergency.

    Your status is based on how much more you are paid relative to the rest of your company, which has produced today’s outrageous inequality. When I started out 45 years ago, the president of our company was paid maybe 12 times what I was, as an entry level salaried employee. His perks probably brought that up to 15 times for equivalent income. Compare that to 100 or 200 times the salary of the average worker for CEOs today. Are they that much harder working, or more valuable to their companies? I doubt it.

  • keirmeister

    You presented DATA, but that doesn’t mean your CONCLUSION is valid.

    You said Obama is the worst union buster since Carter. Those were your words..and none of the articles/data you’ve provided support that assertion.

  • Politics is always somewhat divorced from objective reality, but usually it’s limited to differences of opinion.

    The current crop of wingnuts though don’t even seem to care anymore when their statements can easily be proven false.

    At that point, I think mendacity and evil are just about the only explanations left. They care so much about their own personal ambitions, nothing else matters.

  • Doug105

    ..

  • 2karmanot

    yes

  • 2karmanot

    Well done and thought provoking Jon. Several thoughts: 1) Libertarianism is neither a legitimate philosophical nor economic system. It is merely a petite bourgeois form of anarchy. 2.) Time to pull out Marx 101 and do the homework. 3.) The utterance which states that some work harder than other and therefore are more successful is the essence of cynicism and neo-feudal thinking, which demonstrates as nothing else does the utter bankruptcy of Libertarian mumbo-jumbo. Like radical Christianists Libertarians create a ‘reality’ based on false assumptions and circular reasoning, utterly devoid of truth, a truth which they lack the sufficient intelligence to comprehend or comprehend and cynically ignore, because the former is more lucrative. ie. Marx. Ultimately religion like economic systems dominating production and the worker is all about the money dressed up in fantasies of ‘faith.’ . We all know of or know through family, members who are struggling to survive in this oligarchy of America with two or three jobs. Rand Paul is obviously and demonstratively a third rate thinker with first rate ambitions….much like his name sake Anus Rand.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Litany? No, I presented data. Read it again. Each and every news article from liberal and labor sources is an expose of the Obama regimes union busting.

    PATCO has 11,000 members, the UAW has hundreds of thousands. http://www.kclabor.org/week_in_review_labor_day_special.htm

    You ask “I mean, seriously…unions have been suffering for decades now! You’re going to put all of that on Obama?!?” Read my first reply to you and figure it out for yourself. I blamed Carter, Reagan, the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama. I’m not the origin of the hyperbole and I just proved it.

  • Indigo

    It’s easy enough to suggest that he’s stupid, it’s also plausible to assume that he’s a jerk. What puzzles me, though, is that he is elected to a public office. That suggests to me that the stupid and the jerk are widespread in his district, let alone nationally. He has an audience, that’s what bothers me.

  • keirmeister

    Interesting litany, but none of that says anything about busting unions – particularly to the extent that was started under Reagan.

    I mean, seriously…unions have been suffering for decades now! You’re going to put all of that on Obama?!? That doesn’t leave Obama off the hook for his actions, but your representation is hyperbole at best.

  • keirmeister

    That’s the horrible thing about politics: These people who “lead” us say things that are absurd…it seems nearly impossible that such educated people could utter them. But they do, and it makes me question their sanity, intelligence, or penchant for evil.

    But what’s worse is that people like Paul can say such ludicrous things and still get on TV without being laughed out of the room!

  • Hue-Man

    Is he advocating a 100% death tax with no exemptions for family foundations? I doubt his Dad provided any contacts or financing for HIS rise up the economic food chain!

    There is no free market in CEO pay; they are few in number and are directors on each other boards which just happen to set CEO salaries. Scratch my back…

  • Sure, he can be exactly that stupid. Believing that absent regulatory laws everyone will behave responsibly and with integrity and compassion is delusional. Sure, you’ll run into a few companies here and there where there’s an enlightened owner or CEO, but by and large we’ve seen what happens when capitalism becomes increasingly unfettered: The greediest, most corrupt and selfish bastards move the whole system from symbiosis to parasitism.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Not with left trade unionists. We know the facts. He’s worse than Reagan, the Bushes and the Clintons.

    Obama appoints another union buster as his chief of staff: In these Times 01 29 12 “Obama’s Union-Busting New Chief of Staff? Jacob Lew Helped Destroy Grad Students’ Union at NYU When Obama’s new Chief of Staff was NYU executive vice president, school ceased recognizing the grad students union” http://www.alternet.org/story/153935/obama's_union-busting_new_chief_of_staff_jacob_lew_helped_destroy_grad_students'_union_at_nyu?page=entire

    Obama attacks airline and rail workers : LABORnotes 02 15 12 “Two years after President Obama and Democrats abandoned labor’s much-anticipated Employee Free Choice Act, they have refused to block Republicans intent on making life miserable for airline and rail workers. A bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, voted up 75-20 in the Senate, changes federal labor law to make organizing more difficult for railroad and airline unions. New rules will make it easier to decertify unions and harder to win elections when employers merge.” http://labornotes.org/2012/02/obama-democrats-deal-setback-airline-workers

    Obama attacks the UAW HuffPo 09 03 2010 “The White House is forcefully pushing back on former (Obama) car czar Steve Rattner’s upcoming book about his time in Washington, specifically the allegation that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once blurted “Fuck the UAW” when told that tens of thousands of autoworkers’ jobs were at stake in the restructuring of the auto industry.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/24/steven-rattner-interview-_n_737966.html

    Obama attacks federal workers and postal workers LABORNotes 03 06 2012 During the Obama administration, and especially during its first two years when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, the alliance between unions and their political patrons began to wither. The Employee Free Choice Act, the law that would have eased union organizing drives, was shelved. When the administration bailed out the auto companies, it dictated wage cuts, plant closings, and tens of thousands of layoffs, and stripped workers’ right to strike. The health care bill attacked union-negotiated plans. A green-job transformation for the economy stalled. … Then Obama announced in December 2010 that salaries for federal workers, already low compared to those of private-sector workers with similar education and longevity, would be frozen for years into the future…”http://labornotes.org/blogs/2012/03/labor-overlooks-bipartisan-attack-

  • keirmeister

    I recognize your passion on the topic, but when you say things like “[Obama is] the worst union buster since Carter,” you start losing credibility

  • iamlegion

    True, but backwards. It’s the people who actually work hard that get crap pay; the ones making all the money are the parasites.

  • MoonDragon

    And how does one count the productivity associated with wisely choosing rich parents in an environment that protects inherited wealth?

  • Bose

    Riiiiiight… the CEO pulling down $30 mil is working a thousand times harder than the clerk making $30K? The clerk is putting in 40 hours/wk to the boss’ 40,000 hours? Or the CEO is showing up every day with the same brainpower and output as 300 mid-managers at $100K each?

    That’s not how it works.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Every Democrat and Republican regime since and including Jimmy Carter participated in the massive class warfare attack by the rich on unions and on the standard of living or workers.

    Nixon and the Republicans imposed wage and price controls that benefited corporations and hurt working people.

    Carter and the Democrats deliberately destroyed hundreds of thousands of rail, air, trucking and communications jobs by deregulating those industries with the Staggers Act and the breakup of Ma Bell.

    Reagan and the Republicans busted PATCO and eased the transfer of hundreds of thousands of union heavy industry jobs overseas and continued Carter’s deregulation frenzy. The terms Reagan and Rust Belt are synonymous.

    Bush 1 continued the polices of Carter Reagan and policies and pushed the worst job killer act of the century, NAFTA. But he couldn’t get it passed. His replacement could and did.

    Bill Clinton, the worst president since Hoover, elbowed NAFTA through Congress, did the same with the deregulation bills of 1999 (Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999) and 2000 ( Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000).Clinton singlehandedly did more than anyone else to create the current levels of high unemployment, underemployment and low wages. Pouring salt on those wounds, Clinton gutted welfare and other social parachutes and hired 200,000 more cops (and even managed to push DADT and DOMA through Congress in his spare time.)

    Bush 2 slashed taxes for the rich, busted unions and exported more jobs.

    Obama pushed TARP and other bailouts trillions of dollars. He’s far and away the worst union buster since Carter. He and Congressional Democrats and Republicans are pushing hard for the job killer Trans-Pacific Partnership. They’re also gunning for Medicare and Social Security. Obama’s medical care ‘reform’ bill is a sham designed to increase the profits of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. It compels patients to give insurance and pharmaceutical companies lots of money for the same terrible coverage. Obama and the Democrats propose a contemptuous minimum wage increase that expresses their utter disrespect for working people.

    Socialists will help lead working people in a class war of our own aimed and ending the rule of the rich.

  • emjayay

    He seems to try, but is handicapped by the inherited Libertarian thing, and he doesn’t seem to be too bright either. Rubio is similar without having Ron Paul for a father. Instead, he just reflects the half a century old ideas of his parents. Oh wait, so does the more clever Cruz.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Like all Democrats and Republicans RP is wrong.

    Economic inequality exists because this is a capitalist, profit gouging society with a government and dual ruling parties run by and for the rich and banksters like RP and HRH HRC.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ba3743ee6172459394b8c879646a015d5ec4621efd01d8c2d66c4ab17ce03922.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bdc4052201b897672089d4c33c101d2c2ef5f607224eab3957b28f11c8f25a94.jpg They’re the enemy of working people.

  • keirmeister

    So…that whole 30-year-productivity-increased-while-wages-remained-stagnant thing…Paul doesn’t know about this? Seriously, he can’t be that stupid, can he?

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