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I’ve heard in environmental circles, political circles and in economic circles that there is a reason to fear more Chinese (and other poor people in Asia and Africa) people becoming wealthy. For example, some Environmentalists worry that if poor people assume rich person living standards it would put undue stress on limited resources and environmental quality. In political circles, some people are concerned that with increasing wealth comes increasing political and military influence of other countries, and therefore diminishes the U.S. role as the major political force on the globe. Some people are worried that there would be negative economic effects – that richer Chinese would lead to higher prices of goods we compete for (e.g. Chinese would demand pencils, as we do, so pencil prices must rise), and put downward pressures on wages and put more Americans at risk for losing their jobs.

Ignore for the point of this post whether any of those above claims are valid. I’ve dealt with them elsewhere on this site. I want to ask a different question of the folks who are, in fact, worried about these prospects. Why do I not also hear similar concerns raised about the poor in America? Seriously. If the millions of low-income Americans living in inner cities and rural areas managed to pull themselves up out of poverty and into the ranks of the middle class and the rich, are not these same issues relevant? Furthermore, I’d bet that many people who hold the views from the first paragraph would also consider themselves passionately interested in helping the less fortunate here in America.

Why would you not also fear the increased wealth of Americans in inner cities? Won’t they take your jobs? Won’t they compete for more resources? Won’t they impact the environment? This seems all the more puzzling to me given the fact, yes the fact, that these issues would be closer to home! For example, far more auto manufacturing jobs in Michigan were “lost” to Alabama, Kentucky and South Carolina than to Korea or Japan.

Pray, tell, can you really have it both ways?

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