December 10 2013
Not seeming to realize who’s been in charge for the last oh half decade or so, President Obama has been on tear about growing inequality.
In a recent speech, President Obama launched a "war on inequality" that is reminiscent of President Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty."
Sadly, the poor have been getting poorer under President Obama. But that is not the problem upon which he focuses his attention. Nope, for President Obama, the “problem” is that sliver of the population that has done extremely well.
If President Obama could level these scoundrels in the name of equality, he believes he could solve what ails us as a society. The opposite view—the one we espouse here at IWF—is that a free society full of opportunity for all is a better way: it is the lifting of as many boats possible rather than the sinking of those big boats we envy that will bring prosperity to more people.
Rich Lowry explains why the president’s new war on inequality is misguided:
America does indeed have a serious mobility problem, especially in getting people out of poverty. But it has nothing to do with a small fraction of people being spectacularly rich.
Mark Zuckerberg could be stripped of all his wealth tomorrow, and it wouldn’t help anyone further down the income ladder. It wouldn’t increase wages, or reduce out-of-wedlock child rearing, or lead to less incarceration, or revive the work ethic, all of which would enhance mobility and lift more people into the middle class. It would just make Mark Zuckerberg poor.
Which is why Obama’s war on inequality is so misconceived. We aren’t beset by a wealthy 1 percent destroying opportunity and immiserating the rest of the country. The president needs to reconsider his casus belli.
He also needs to think about why some segments of the population remain poor. Mona Charen points out a subject that the president didn’t touch in his inequality speech: marriage. She writes:
Jobs are changing, international competition has driven down wages, top executives are pulling down enormous salaries, but it is cultural patterns, specifically personal decisions about cohabitation and marriage, that are most responsible for deepening the divide between haves and have-nots in America.
The contrast between the highly educated and the rest of the nation has become so pronounced that some are now calling marriage a “luxury good.” If it becomes that — if the collapse of marriage as a norm continues among the poor and the broad middle class — much more than income inequality will result. We will institutionalize a productivity deficit, a healthy-community deficit, a schooling deficit, and a happiness deficit.
If the president really wanted to elevate the poor instead of tear down the successful, he would put more emphasis on marriage. He would not have let his campaign go forth with the famous “Life of Julia” infomercial, which approvingly chronicles the life of an ostensibly unmarried “Julia” who lives a life of cradle to grave dependency on government.
I urge you to read Mona’s entire piece.
I just want to comment on something from President Obama’s speech at Nelson Mandela’s memorial that seems to me germane here. The president said:
"We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality," Obama said, referring to Mandela by his traditional clan name.
The president thinks that there are a lot of crummy people who “passionately resist even modest reforms” that would help the poor. Got that? It’s a really nasty way to look at people. Do you know anybody who would resist a “modest” reform to empower the poor? I don’t.
But it is no wonder that a president who has this view of his fellow human beings is more interested in tearing down than adopting and promoting policies that would enable vast numbers of people to build something for themselves.