WOULD IT SURPRISE you to learn that when it comes to the politics of economic envy, Americans can accept the idea of wealthy people, but middle-income families can’t accept the knowledge that it is unjust knowing that 60% of Americans have virtually the same standard of living despite dramatic differences in the effort they exert and the income they generate.

That was the takeaway of a report published in April by the Cato Institute’s John Early, a former assistant commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It partly explains why so many blue-collar workers helped elect one of the wealthiest men president in 2016, while touting a pro-growth agenda.

The study found an astonishing degree of equality among the bottom 60% of American earners generated in part by the explosion of social-welfare spending and economic and wage stagnation during the Barack Obama era, said Early.

As a result, hard-working middle-income and lower middle-income families recognized that their efforts left them little better off than the growing number of recipients of those government transfers.

People are realizing that people getting government transfers are living nearly as well as those who work full time. It’s the old story about it is better to ride in the wagon than to help pull the wagon.

It highlights the effects of nearly $1 trillion annually of government transfers that include Medicaid, food stamps, the earned-income tax credit and 85 other federal government payments and services, along with similar state and local income supplements.

The study found that few people resent Bill Gates, whose innovations made him mega rich, but also made the rest of us better off. People can’t live without Amazon.com even though it has enriched Jeff Bezos by $150 billion. People admire the folksy Warren Buffet, head of Berkshire-Hathaway, as his efforts helped raise the returns of savings and retirement accounts.

The real injustice of inequality, in the minds of middle-class households who often have two income earners or work two jobs, is that they subsidize the lower-income households so much that they live as well as they do without nearly as much effort.

The study concluded that the harder people worked getting ahead, the more reason they had to feel disrespected and alienated. It is important for middle-class Americans to be rewarded for working hard.

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WE’VE ALL read the headlines. The current unemployment rate is less than 4%, which the Federal Reserve considers at or beyond full employment.

This also means only about 6 million people are unemployed under the Labor Department’s official definition. An additional 5.1 million want a job, but don’t meet the definition and another 5 million work part time because they can’t find full-time work.

Some progressive socialists like Sen. Bernie Sanders have proposed a federal job guarantee program that would guarantee workers $15 an hour plus $3 an hour for benefits, which economists say would cost around $450 billion a year or 2.3% of gross domestic product, according to progressive think tanks.

What might happen, warn economists, is the federal program guaranteeing these jobs would crowd out many private services. The make-work jobs would crowd out such private service jobs as brewing coffee, cleaning hotel rooms, flipping hamburgers and migrant farm jobs.

The Economic Policy Institute said 39% of the workforce, some 54 million people, now earn $15 an hour or less. Most would have an incentive to quit their jobs and join the federally subsidized program.

Who wouldn’t want the security of a guaranteed federal program job? It might not have the dignity associated with a job in the private sector, but it would give those workers a decent standard of living.

Enabling workers to make a decent living is a noble goal. Even better is enabling them to do so while serving the needs of a market economy. For progressives, devising programs using other people’s money is the answer to all problems.

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AS MOST Americans approach age 62, they face a complex decision: when to start taking Social Security. There are many complicated factors to consider. Everyone must study the options that affect their personal situation.

While you can apply for benefits anytime between 62 and 70, Social Security offers substantial incentives for workers to wait. Waiting until you are 70 can boost your monthly payments by more than 75%, but you risk missing out on those eight years of benefits.

According to the Social Security Administration, 57% of recipients take their benefits before reaching full retirement age. Only 10% feel confident in waiting beyond the full retirement age. Some people feel they must remain in the workforce to make ends meet.

Here’s the breakdown: 34% start at age 62, 6% at age 63, 6% at age 64, 10% at age 65, 18% at age 66, 4% at age 67-69 and 4% at age 70.

Reports show that more than 60% of workers rely on Social Security for at least half of their retirement income. A 2018 Gallup survey predicts that that number will increase to 84% in the not too distant future.