Perceiving a disparity between the wealth of the wealthy and the poverty of the poor as a problem the government is rightly tasked with correcting is a fundamentally communist idea. A government that makes its entire living off a parasitic encroachment on the free market, rich and poor alike, can comment all it wants on the poignant distance between rich and poor, but it has no business doing anything that enriches the one by confiscating from the other.
Yet President Barack Obama has launched into a full-scale public relations campaign to get the Nation on board for a government-backed closing of the wealth gap — one that can be accomplished only by a wholesale redistribution of private wealth that makes our present quasi-socialist state seem like an anarchic black-market economy by comparison.
Why? Because government must expand if it is to persuade its lowest-common-denominator democratic constituency — subject to the fickle wind of uninformed voter opinion — that it is operating effectively. If you’re an elected official (and especially if you’re the President), enacting bad policy is better than enacting none at all — regardless of the policy’s relative benefit or your Constitutional role in the process. Action is more politically bankable than inaction.
Obama’s rhetorical punch line is that income inequality is the problem in need of solving. In this Nation, it’s not. The ossification of the classes — upper, middle, lower — is. Social mobility and, more importantly, the zeitgeist that views upward mobility with general optimism, must be robust. A recent report concludes that social mobility in the U.S. is about as likely as it’s ever been; but it’s still less likely than what the American dream, with its open-ended promise of self-fulfillment, has always proffered for ambitious hearts and minds.
Obama’s perception of the problem is misplaced. The subhead for an article that recently appeared on Reason’s website encapsulates this in a nutshell: “Why does the President insist on confusing income inequality with economic mobility?”
Turn to Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) for a clear explanation of where Obama’s talking points have gone astray.
In his “Tea Party” response to the President’s State of the Union address last week, Lee correctly identified the Nation’s economic problems as a function not of income inequality, but of lockout. A poor person with a plan and a work ethic typically wants to become less poor, maybe even rich. It’s a facile and intellectually dishonest mind that believes the lower class, on the whole, will be content with a “living wage.” People who can rise higher want to rise higher, and they will — if there’s a way.
“Much of what is wrong relates to the sense that the ‘American dream’ is falling out of reach for far too many of us,” said Lee last week, delineating three “forms” in which this problem currently affects the American class structure. “Immobility among the poor, who are being trapped in poverty by big-government programs; insecurity in the middle class, where families are struggling just to get by and can’t seem to get ahead; and cronyist privilege at the top, where political and economic insiders twist the immense power of the Federal government to profit at the expense of everyone else.
“But where does this new inequality come from?” Lee then asked rhetorically. “From government–every time it takes rights and opportunities away from the American people and gives them instead to politicians, bureaucrats, and special interests.”
Obama’s announced campaign to level the playing field by implementing policies that aim to narrow the wealth gap, if successful, will provide the textbook example of what Lee was talking about.