Victor Davis Hanson writes Ripples from the Election in The National Review, 12/11/12.
In the new climate of “fat cats,” “corporate jet owners,” “pay your fair share,” “you didn’t build that,” and “1 percent,” the more Americans have, the more they are envious of those who have more. One might have thought that the technological revolution, in combination with the welfare state, had redefined poverty altogether in ways that the fossilized entitlement bureaucracy could hardly grasp. Certainly, a Kia, an iPhone, and a big-screen TV do not disqualify one from the menu of American entitlements. That today’s earner or recipient of $35,000 in wages or entitlements has better appurtenances — in terms of computer power, phone, and car — than the $250,000 earner of 30 years ago means little. The point is not that the modern iPhone gives the poor man access to more knowledge than the entire RAND Corporation had 50 years ago, but that the contemporary RAND Corporation has more access than what an iPhone can provide, leaving its owner in relative terms still poor. That today’s Kia is better in many ways than yesterday’s Mercedes matters little — it is still not today’s Lexus. One of the great lessons in the age of Obama is that wealth and poverty will always remain relative. Happiness is now defined not as having the basics I need, but as ensuring that someone else does not have more. Obama has successfully appealed to the oldest and basest of human emotions — envy and jealousy, masked with the notion of enforced fairness — and for now they trump even the human desire to be free.
Perhaps the reason we still have poverty after spending trillions over decades to eliminate it is that we keep defining poverty upwards. When poverty becomes a government concern it spawns bureaucracies with six figure staffers who claim the moral high ground not by reducing poverty, but by perpetuating and institutionalizing it.