The wealthiest Americans work for their money, and the poor could learn from them

This is not an invitation to moral crowing about the virtues of the rich — okay, maybe it is. The country would in fact be far better off if more people lived the way the top 20 percent do: married, working their butts off, saving and investing their money, and living within their means. (In his research for The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas J. Stanley found that the most popular make of automobile among the wealthy was not Ferrari or Mercedes but Ford, and that the most common Ford model owned by a millionaire was the F-150 pickup truck.)

But this is not just an invitation to moral crowing about the virtues of the rich. If one assumes that a very large portion of the poor would ceteris paribus prefer to be better off, then our analysis of the problem must begin by acknowledging that while there is significant inequality when it comes to income, the more radical and significant instance of inequality is in the opportunity to earn any income in the first place. Blaming the rich for the predicament of the poor is insupportable in the face of the data: If the Waltons dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow, that would make no difference at all to the 68.2 percent of poor householders who have no work but cannot afford to be unemployed. It would simply create more unemployment, assuming the Waltons do not build their own houses and sew their own clothes.