When Barack Obama told Joe the Plumber that he wanted to “spread the wealth around,” what wealth was he talking about? And, where did the wealth come from? Wealth comes in many forms. We can be rich in friendship. We can be rich in faith. Our lives can be filled with great art, or we can be blessed in love. But the wealth Obama discussed here is money, cash, greenback dollars.
Now money in itself has no value. It is just scraps of paper or bits of metal. Money is a medium for the exchange of goods and services. It is worth whatever it can buy, no more and no less.
So where does it come from. How is money wealth created? It is created by the hands and minds of workers who produce the goods and services on which its value is based. If you work in a sewing plant making shirts, the value of the shirts you make is expressed in the money you earn. If you drive the truck that delivers the shirts to the warehouse, and on to the store, your work adds to the value of the shirts. If you are the clerk who assists a customer in purchasing the shirt, your efforts are added to its value. That is where money comes from. The labor you and your fellow workers perform.
Now in an ideal world, you would receive in pay the value you create with your work. But that is not the case. A combination of government and big business entities conspire to take from you a major part of the value you create. They take it in the way of taxes, fees, fraud and corruption. As a result, you lose a major portion of the value you create with your work.
It is true that some of the value taken away from us is returned in benefits. Some of it goes to build roads and bridges, and we need those to get around this great country. Some of it goes to police, fire and rescue which keeps us safe in our homes and communities. Another part goes to finance the military that protects us from enemies who might try to steal away our freedom. That is money well spent.
When banks and other financial institutions charge us excessively high interest rates to borrow money, we lose that value. When thieves take the merchandise we create without paying, we all lose because the price of what we buy must be increased to cover the loss.
The most egregious abuse of our hard-earned money comes in the form of “spreading the wealth around.” When the value we create is taken away and given to people who do nothing to earn it, we are deprived of that value and receive nothing in return.
Now, I realize that some people need help from time to time. And I am never reluctant to assist when I have the ability to do so. We are a generous people. We have numerous systems for offering help. We have churches, civic organizations, direct aid. People who truly need our assistance can usually find it. But far too many people have decided to live on other people’s work without contributing any goods or services in return.
Nor am I objecting to the idea of “spreading the wealth around,” if that entails growing the economy so that everyone who wants and needs a job can find one. And the best way to do that is to allow the people who create the wealth to keep more of it for their own use. With more of our money left in our pockets for us to spend on goods and services other people produce, we will create a greater demand for those goods and services, which will result in more jobs.
Spreading the wealth around by taking from the producers of the wealth and giving it to non producers makes us all less wealthy. Joe the Plumber is right.