Yes, by all means, let’s talk about income inequality

posted at 10:01 am on December 8, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

I’m not sure exactly when the phrase “income inequality” crept into the US political lexicon, but it’s clearly here to stay… at least for a while. You’ve been hearing it a lot these days, from Bill de Blasio and Hillary Clinton to Elizabeth Warren and even the Pope. Never being one to miss a chance to talk about anything except Obamacare, even the President has promised to make the issue his next in a long series of pivots.

Weakened by problems with his health-care initiative, President Obama turned back to the economy last week to rebalance his presidency with a speech about income inequality. He said he would devote much of his remaining time in office to the issue, calling it the “defining challenge of our time.” The bigger issue is how much he can or will do about it…

Obama has talked about the issue before. His advisers can draw a direct line from his speech in Osawatomie, Kan., in December 2011 through the 2012 campaign, when he made middle-class concerns the centerpiece of his message against Mitt Romney. Jon Favreau, one of his former speechwriters, said in an e-mail that those same themes were part of his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. But he has rarely been as direct or as pointed about the problem as he was at a community center in Southeast Washington last week.

Yes, Barack Obama is jumping on the income inequality bandwagon. He’s even gone so far as to recently say that it threatens the American dream. So is this a problem? Of course it is. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum it’s impossible to deny that there are far too many people among the working class who aren’t earning enough to enjoy the dream of prosperity which America has typically embodied. The real question – and one of the defining schisms between the two major political parties – is what to do about it. But to really wrap our heads around the question it’s important to understand the widely differing approaches supported by liberals and conservatives and the core cause of the problem.

You don’t have to look far to see the “solutions” being pushed by the progressive arm of American politics, and they are plans which tie directly into their definition of what’s wrong with the system in the first place. The problem, to hear them describe it, is that there are a relative handful of greedy rich people who are keeping everyone else down. Their plans to address this situation fall essentially into two basic categories, each involving the guiding hand of a giant, benevolent government. The first prong of this two tine fork is to have the government force employers give everyone a huge pay raise.

But since that won’t do enough to directly punish those sneering, snarling Fat Cats at the top of the ladder, they also want to do more – a lot more – to take away as much money from the highly successful as possible. If we could only manage that, they say, the gulf between High and Low would be significantly closed. This need to punish those who have risen high is demonstrated in the Washington Post article referenced above in a quote from Democrat pollster Geoff Garin.

“There is certainly a very deep feeling of resentment about the privileges that the people at the very top enjoy and that we have a system that is geared to gilding the lily to people at the top, as opposed to rewarding hard work and effort by middle-class and working-class Americans,” he said. “I think there is a deep desire in the country to unstack the deck economically.”

And how do progressives plan to “fix” this portion of the problem? The answer is as old as politics. We’ll simply keep raising taxes on those who have more until equality is achieved.

Conservatives, however, see the situation in different terms, starting with what’s causing the income level disparity in the fist place. There are less people earning enough money to advance and live the American dream to be sure. But it’s because the economy is staggering under poor management. This is not advanced mathematics, folks. We keep producing more people every generation (the US population hasn’t seen an actual decline since the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic), but there are not enough job openings requiring workers to keep up with the supply. Since employers have long lines of people waiting to fill any vacancy, there is no incentive to crank up wages and benefits. It’s simple supply and demand.

If you implement policies which stimulate growth and allow the economy to flourish, demand for workers rises and employers have to compete for the best employees. But if you seek to adjust society yet again by putting the government’s thumb on the scale, you’ll get pretty much more of what we’re seeing today. And that’s because the government is just so darned good at tinkering with the private sector. (See: health care and energy among others.) There is a solution to income inequality, but it’s not in the proposals coming from Obama and company.

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Schadenfreude on December 8, 2013 at 1:23 PM

“Tax the rich.
Feed the poor.
‘Til there are
Rich no more.”
–Ten Years After, 1971

But if that little nugget of pop culture hippie wisdom is to be believed, then it’s more important to tear down the rich than to help the poor. Otherwise, shouldn’t it go “‘Til they are poor no more”?

JimLennon on December 8, 2013 at 1:02 PM

You forgot the chorus:
“I’d love to change the world
but I don’t know what to do
so I’ll leave it up to you”
Sounds like King Dogshanks (h/t Bishop)

Rio Linda Refugee on December 8, 2013 at 1:28 PM

I’m not sure exactly when the phrase “income inequality” crept into the US political lexicon,

Socialists invented it.

farsighted on December 8, 2013 at 1:33 PM

It certainly doesn’t take a Harvard Graduate to see there are people who make more money and people who make less money in the United States. However, it does take a certain degree of intelligence to get a grasp on why that is. Barack Obama has no clue, none, about why there is income disparity in the United States. Not only that, but he has no clue what could be a solution to that. He still supports, with a vigor, the same Democrat policies that have been responsible for this and will continue to do so because he lacks the necessary knowledge to change his opinions.

For him to understand what the problem is, he would actually have to communicate with people he fundamentally disagrees with. Since he’s been so brainwashed, throughout the years, he honestly doesn’t understand capitalism, which isn’t the biggest problem, the biggest problem is he doesn’t want to understand capitalism.

THe next 3 years will offer absolutely no solutions to the problems we face today, just like the past 50 years have been devastating to the black community because the Democrats policies have ruined their family structure. Blacks today have exactly the same problems they had 50 years ago and the Democrats are responsible for that. If you’ve read any Frederick Douglass, you know how highly he valued education. Now, keeping that in mind, look at what the Democrats have done to education. Look at the D.C. voucher program and how the Democrats fought that. Is that the policy of a political party that cares about blacks? Of course not!

We are either going to fight Barack Obama and the Democrats, or we’re going to wait for the mid-terms, hope we win, and then try something. The Republican Party needs to make a case for what they believe and point out the stark differences. I’m beginning to believe, the only reason they don’t do that is because, for the establishment, the differences aren’t that stark.

bflat879 on December 8, 2013 at 1:37 PM

By design “income inequality” did not, theoretically, exist in the Soviet Union.

In practice, it still did. The ‘effective’ income inequality hierarchy, when benefits of the position and overall compensation in terms of use of “government owned” resources is considered, was roughly this, from top to bottom. ….

– Politburo members
– Central Committee members
– Party commissars
– Other Party members
– Government workers (most were Party members)
– Everyone else

Of course, they were all theoretically doing “The People’s” business and were employed by “The People”. They even had elections in the Soviet Union.

We are seeing a similar hierarchy develop in the US, in particular with respect to state and federal government workers/employees and elected full time politicians, who already have an effective compensation levels, including benefits, higher than the average private sector worker — funded largely by taxes on the private sector workers.

Unfortunately for doctors they will be one of the losers in this trend. When they become government employees their income will go way down. The result will be fewer doctors. That is, until the government starts calling people who were formerly called nurses doctors.

farsighted on December 8, 2013 at 1:57 PM

farsighted on December 8, 2013 at 1:57 PM

The progressives today in this country are the living embodiment of Orwell’s ‘All are equal, some are just more equal than others’ observation about the class warfare of the hard left.

They are the elite – and the elite, and loyal, are entitled to more because they are part of the loyal elite. Furthermore, the decision as to what is equal is made by the elite in the government – they strongly believe that the free market can’t equitably decide on who should get what…because it is flawed….it is based on equality of opportunity not government defined equality of results.

The Administration and the progressive movement is in real trouble because of the policies of Barack Obama combined with the EpicClusterFarkNado hammering the country. So, when in trouble, reboot back to the basics….

Athos on December 8, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Just wait until the progressive elite’, notably in Hollywood, realize that they’re the “rich” The One and his minions want to tax the H**l out of.

They’ll be screaming for exemptions- and their lawyers- five point three nanoseconds later.

If there was ever a “wedge issue” that could split the upper echelon of the progressive movement, dividing the “limousine liberals” from the Alinskyite bomb-throwers, this is it.

clear ether


eon on December 8, 2013 at 3:32 PM

I wonder how many of those communist idiots have stopped to recognize that the people who are talking about penalizing the rich to create an “equal” society are extremely….um….rich themselves.

I know, I know…crazy talk.

KMC1 on December 8, 2013 at 3:44 PM

The problem is too many workers. The Republicans claim the problem is not enough workers. At least Huntsman said that during the debates and no Republican challenged the ridiculous claim.

Buddahpundit on December 8, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Typical lazy progressives who lack the attention span to stick with a problem until the best method of fixing a problem is reached. Rather than identify the income inequality problem such are freedom of ideas choking teachers unions, more concerns of putting condoms on a cucumber than reading, writing & MATH. Their communist ideas is to always go after the rich. What happens when all that rich moneys gone? Destructive Progressive like a parasite eating it’s host. It never ends well.

RdLake on December 8, 2013 at 4:47 PM

When all the Dems actually show some leadship by donating all of their salary (including benefits, perks, etc.) amounts that exceed median income to charities that serve the poor, the disabled, and mentally ill, I will take them seriously.

Until then, they lie.

EdmundBurke247 on December 8, 2013 at 4:53 PM

It’s not the rich they are going after. It’s the middle class who is hurt. And I hate people who live in luxury, like Obama, constantly telling me I need to redistribute what money we have. I hate worse the myriad ways they actually redistribute my money, and their unending proposals for doing more of the same.

They won’t be happy till everyone – except themselves and others they deem to be so important as to need to be wealthy – is equally miserable. That is their goal: To have a wealthy ruling class, and everyone else at the bottom, with all opportunities to dig out forever closed.

I’m sick of these people forcing me to share more, when they have, buy, eat, wear, and travel, to whatever their hearts desire, AND think that’s perfectly all right. I’d like to see them suffer just a little bit; those who live high on the hog on our dimes, while telling us we need to suffer more.

Alana on December 8, 2013 at 5:03 PM

Comma goes after the “to”

Alana on December 8, 2013 at 5:05 PM

You forgot “damn it Jim,….”

I sentence you to 2 hours of X-Factor and 4 recitations of the Prime Directive.

BobMbx on December 8, 2013 at 10:56 AM

I’d prefer to be confined to my quarters.

aunursa on December 8, 2013 at 5:16 PM

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum it’s impossible to deny that there are far too many people among the working class who aren’t earning enough to enjoy the dream of prosperity which America has typically embodied.

Being in the “working class” in the US is upper middle class (or near royalty) to the rest of the world.

Count to 10 on December 8, 2013 at 6:07 PM

In simple terms, Obama has got the economy that HIS money policy produces. I read last week that the 1% or billionaires and maybe millionaire have “recovered” from the 2008 and 2009 slides in assets. The money policy from Bernacke returns solvency to the Wall Street sector, only. Everyone else suffers from devalued dollars in the marketplace, and increasing…food and energy prices.

The Obama money policy does NOT reward people for taking their “nasty” piles of money and investing it thru loans to new start up companies, or risk taking adventures; Obama has favored industries that don’t produce NEW jobs, for instance, consumer staples, consumer necessities/goods are “safe” in the New Normal.

You have to count your Obamacare burden if you want to engage new hires; and in the so called “affluent market,” where new ideas are explored, the discretionary spending by True upwardly mobile/middle class has not returned from a marketing statistics sense. There is still too much fear, and the middle class lost heavily in real estate values compared to the 1% and the lower classes, because most of their assets were in real estate. The Self Employed are punished and ignored, when they are the lifeblood of the American economy.

The discretionary spending economy is not back, because it comes from a vibrant middle class (not from people who get food stamps/section8 housing/EBT cards no matter how generous the benefits are.)Please, if you buy your food with a SNAP card, stop calling yourself middle class.

The Obama economy monetary policy rewards Goldman Sachs liberals, for their paper investments, but finds it distasteful and shuns pro business monetary policy/taxation policy favored by go getters and conservatives that would grow the economy.

The Obama higher tax rates hurts the middle class. The increased cost in Obamacare mandates is paid for by the middle class alone, the self employed, the sole proprietorships, and Ironically, Irksomely, Obama looks at this and sees that if only minimum wage was a teensy bit higher, he will have raised everyone magically to the middle class in his presidency, by making all salaries “equal” but eradicating a true upwardly mobile middle class. The minimum wage was never meant to be an upwardly mobile middle class wage, it was supposed to be the bottom rung of a ladder. Obama’s money policy breaks all the rungs on the ladder to leave a worker class and a political class/celebrity class that DESERVE to have more because they are so willing to share their wealth, and are magnanimous.

What is the point really at looking at the difference between George Soros and the average person? Obama’s Median income has been falling. That is more serious.

And, from a different point of view, if we are concerned with measuring the plight of the bottom third of the country, we really have to make them put their SNAP benefits, their EBT, their Section 8 benefit on a tax return and attach all the proper receipts and treat them like adults, well, I mean the way they treat the Self Employed. I would just like to see them have to sign a 1040 that says how much they got from the government so we can stop calling them inequal, cuz “at the end of the day” les miserables have more spendable cash than you and me.

Fleuries on December 8, 2013 at 7:58 PM

After he’s done in the White House, this man will go on his speaking tour. Hillary’s making $200K per speech. Obama will probably knock down a $million. And I’ll bet that he’ll keep every bit of it. The only redistribution he’ll do will be to his account, Mooch, Sasha & Malia. The perks of empowered Socialists.

RdLake on December 8, 2013 at 10:38 PM

Does anyone remember Orwell’s 1984 and the term “newspeak?”

“Income inequality” is a newspeak euphemism for “From each according to his ability and to each according to his need.”

The Democrats have become the Socialist Party in all but name.

schmuck281 on December 8, 2013 at 11:42 PM

At the same time, people who “have” need to be taught from the age of zero the importance of voluntary compassion and generosity.

Shy Guy on December 8, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Used to be some groups that did teach that principle, but they aren’t getting much respect for it these days.

Just as millions of Americans are preparing to commemorate Jesus’ birth, a secular activist group is once again taking aim at the traditional purpose for the holiday season, asking in a new digital billboard: ”Who needs Christ during Christmas?”

American Atheists, an activist group known for posting its controversial messages on billboards across the nation, unveiled its latest anti-Christmas ad this week in New York City’s Times Square — a 40′ by 40′ display that is sure to rile critics concerned over the so-called “War on Christmas.”

After asking “Who needs Christ,” the digital billboard shows a hand crossing out Jesus’ name with a marker and text that answers the curiosity with a one word answer — “Nobody.” The next graphic tells viewers to “Celebrate the true meaning of XMAS.”

This “true meaning,” according to the billboard, includes charity, family, friends and food — all secular elements that are associated with Christmas. It concludes with the more general “Happy Holidays” greeting.

Subtly suggesting that Christians aren’t concerned about charity, family, friends and food —

AesopFan on December 8, 2013 at 11:45 PM

Yes, Barack Obama is jumping on the income inequality bandwagon. He’s even gone so far as to recently say that it threatens the American dream. So is this a problem? Of course it is.

Here’s where you went wrong. The left starts talking about “income inequality,” and you accept the term without question.

The only way that income inequality is a problem is if there somewhere exists income equality. But even in the most Communistic of all states, the Soviet Union, there was a whole class of people that lived better lives, had better things, and shopped in better stores. They were called the nomenklatura.

If income equality is not even possible, then why all the talk about income inequality that has always existed, and always will exist? Anyone who starts talking about income inequality deserves to be mocked relentlessly. Does the budget of the Kardashians take food out of my family’s mouth? Are poor children starving because Paris Hilton has more money than sense?

Frankly, the fact that some people have billions of dollars does not make me any worse off, or any more miserable. The better standard is a simple one: “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.”

The real problem is not inequality of income, but poverty. Whether or not you have enough money to get by does not depend on whether someone else has more or less.

Isn’t this really just an example of moving the goalposts? President Johnson famously declared “the War on Poverty” back in the 60s. The reason they are now using the phrase income inequality is because the War on Poverty completely failed.

There Goes the Neighborhood on December 9, 2013 at 12:32 AM

Well…looking at his quality of work, I’d say the rest of us should earn as much as the President.


zoyclem on December 9, 2013 at 5:37 AM

It’s a childish view of economics, in line with this piece of brilliance:

“If everyone was rich, no one would have to work!”

Barry’s a clown, a fool; he’s OWS — and just as childish. He never makes a mistake, blames others for his failures, never takes responsibility for his actions, and expects everything to be handed to him.

Worst of all, he’s a criminal. He committed fraud with Obamacare, and he needs to be put on trial in criminal court.

RobertMN on December 9, 2013 at 7:49 AM

I want to know why so many Liberals are rich. Shouldn’t they, by their ideology, give away all their wealth except for what would be a “living wage” … say $15/hr (about $30k/yr) , as they propose?

All “do as I say, not as I do.”

Time for Liberals to lead the way by divesting themselves of all their worldly goods until everyone is “equal.”

At least, that’s what Liberal Logic(tm) would dictate, right?

ProfShadow on December 9, 2013 at 8:19 AM

I’m not going to be concerned about income inequality until poor people are skinny again.

jdpaz on December 9, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Oddly, the conservative plan for health care – spurring growth so people can get a job – would also help the income inequality problem.

If Obama is so worried about income inequality, why have his policies so far helped the rich and hurt the poor? The money creation is keeping the stock market inflated like one of those giant, lit snowmen.

hawksruleva on December 9, 2013 at 10:43 AM

“So is this a problem? Of course it is.”

No, not necessarily. The standard-of-living gap has closed, dramatically, in the last 30-40 years. Like everything else, once we begin to accept the liberal premise that “income inequality” is a problem, you’ve lost the fight.

SAMinVA on December 9, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Income inequality is really a piece of jargon, that isn’t really accurate. I think they use it interchangeably with Income Disparity, which is snootier sounding.

Income inequality is Rosie the Riveter getting 50% of the wages for the same job as a man, all the same tasks. Otherwise, why would incomes be equal? If all the incomes are equal and everyone makes the minimum wage does that solve it?

And everyone knows that at some place they worked along the way, there was someone who got the same pay as you did, but did half the work. Usually the same people who always said the DOG at their homework. I want the person who does all the work at your job, to get more pay than the others. I WANT income inequality.

Fleuries on December 9, 2013 at 11:13 AM

By design “income inequality” did not, theoretically, exist in the Soviet Union.

farsighted on December 8, 2013 at 1:57 PM

Good perspective. And we can see it today where “party members” such as union members are allowed to draw gold-plated pensions and benefits for minimal personal contribution.

The politicians and their CEO cronies participate in a symbiotic level of contributions and favors that’s not really classed as “income”.

As ever, no, Obama’s priority (of income redistribution) is not a national priority. As usual, it is anti-american and yet another brisk step on the road to serfdom.

Don’t get distracted. Income inequality is not a problem. And socialists are the last people you want to address it, if it were.

virgo on December 9, 2013 at 11:27 AM

But before we discus the subject, lets address the unequal education, work ethic, self discipline, manners, hygiene, and moral character.

mixplix on December 9, 2013 at 1:09 PM

Income redistribution first. So transfer payments for the people on the low end of the income distribution paid for by high progressive taxes on the wealthy.

This assumes that high tax rates on the wealthy does not affect their choices about how they get their compensation/income or how much. There are a whole host of tradeoffs that people make when it comes to how hard they will work when the marginal return (that they can use) from that hard (often extra) work is small.

So the taxes collected starts to fall because the relatively high earners no longer see it to be to their advantage to work so hard for so little. Yet the demands for the transfer payments continues unabated, in part, because the recipients are getting (apparently) something for nothing.

Eventually the system faces implosion because of declining tax revenues versus continued demand. The only thing that can happen in that environment is to increase the progressivity of the tax rates which causes more high earners to not try so hard. A viscous circle that can only end with the system unable to make the payments.

In the mean time, the Progressives carry on because the sky has not fallen (yet) and they don’t have to face the handwriting (yet).

Russ808 on December 9, 2013 at 3:31 PM

“Yes, by all means, let’s talk about income inequality.”

OK. I’m a physician and deal in saving lives on a daily basis. You’re a politician and deal in drone strikes and bankrupting a nation. Let’s talk about it. I’m good with that.

NoPain on December 9, 2013 at 8:04 PM