A long time ago, I visited some friends who lived in a tiny town of about 500. Everyone knew everyone else. Like most of the folks in and around the area, these people were low income. One day at the grocery store, my friend’s mother wrote a check for some groceries. “If this check bounces,” she joked, “we’ll have to skip town.”

“Nah,” the clerk replied with a smile. “You’re too poor to move.”

I was surprised at the implied insult and later asked my friend’s mother to explain. “We’re all poor around here,” she said. “Even if we wanted to move and even if we could find someone who wanted our house, we couldn’t sell it for enough money to afford a house anywhere else, so we’re stuck.”

I’ve remembered that incident for almost 30 years because I realize how true it is. Poor people are often too poor to move.

Rich people are not.

In this week’s column, John Stossel explains in his typically blunt style that rich people, when taxed too much, simply choose to move away rather than surrender more of their money to government goons. It’s a simple case of Atlas Shrugged. “Progressives want to raise taxes on individuals who make more than $200,000 a year because they say it’s wrong for the rich to be ‘given’ more money,” he writes, then adds, “A tax cut is not a handout. It simply means government steals less. What progressives want to do is take money from some – by force – and spend it on others. It sounds less noble when plainly stated.”

To me, this is perfectly logical. If conditions are not suitable where you live and you have the resources to move, then you leave. That’s the purpose of having individual states, which can compete with one another for citizens and, by extension, tax revenue. If someone doesn’t like the taxes levied upon him in one state, he can move to another – and the left-behind state loses the taxes it might have collected from that person.

Astoundingly, politicians seem unable to grasp this concept.

But then, the intelligence level of politicians has always been questionable. “Politicians are not economists,” my husband notes caustically. “Most get elected for being photogenic and having the best speaking ability.” We expect politicians to be experts in economics when in reality they’re merely experts in pretense.

This simple, basic concept – that rich people provide jobs, and if they’re harassed to the breaking point they’ll simply depart and take those jobs with them – is apparently beyond the understanding of politicians and progressives alike. More than two centuries ago, Thomas Jefferson noted, “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

To me, punishing people for being rich is like killing the goose that laid the golden egg. If you keep the goose alive, it gives gold forever. If you give rich people the ability to keep more of what they earn, they create endless jobs in the private sector. As the saying goes, I’ve never seen a poor person give anyone a job.

Now, before all my progressive readers e-mail and tell me why rich people are scummy jerks who receive endless government back-scratching deals and therefore deserve to be taxed to death – let me say that I agree with you, to a point. Doubtless there is as much of an unholy alliance between the government and some rich people as there is between the government and bankers (too often it’s the same people).

But the fact remains, we need the wealthy – and not for the money we can steal from them. We need them to provide private-sector jobs for the rest of us poor saps who don’t have the brains, capital or drive to start multi-million dollar companies that employ hundreds of thousands.

But progressives prefer to kill the goose. “Redistribution of wealth both within and among nations is absolutely essential, if a decent life is to be provided for every human being,” wrote White House Director of Science and Technology Policy John P. Holdren in his co-authored book “Human Ecology.” OK, granted he wrote this in 1973. But under recent questioning, he doesn’t deny he still believes it.

I realize it’s counterintuitive for politicians to allow people to keep more of their own money, but it’s an indisputable fact that lower taxes (for everyone) stimulate economic growth through job creation and discretionary spending.

But politicians still prefer to dress up their redistribution schemes in pretty words about egalitarianism and helping the poor. My goodness, after 50 years of hearing such nonsense you’d think people wouldn’t fall for that kind of twaddle, but I guess I’m wrong. Some people still believe politicians are working for our good rather than chaining us into government dependency. Some people still want something for nothing. “Those evil rich people should give me some of their money,” is the logic, “because they have too much and I don’t have enough. They should share.” It’s immaterial that the sharing isn’t voluntary; it’s theft at the point of a gun.

Meanwhile, elite liberal professors at elite liberal universities reinforce this mantra to their students, thus ensuring another generation of useful idiots who will toe the Marxist line. Oooh, this makes me mad.

Why does it make me mad? Because if the government can pass laws to take more money away from the rich, then nothing is safe. It means the government can (and sooner or later will) take away anything from anybody. Including me – and you.

So yes, my concerns are selfish. But it’s the collective “selfish” interests of independent people, both rich and poor, that led to the economic prosperity of this nation. Government theft dismantles prosperity.

When the time comes that the government removes too much of the money my husband and I work so hard to earn, we will be too poor to move. In many ways we already are.

But the rich are not. And unlike the useful idiots, rich people are smart enough to know when enough is enough. “Atlas Shrugged” is not fiction. It’s a blueprint.

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