As expected, one of the big themes for President Obama’s State of the Union speech will be “income inequality.” Those of you who were expecting the big “ObamaCare: What Was I Thinking?” speech will have to contain your disappointment. You’ll have plenty to discuss with Linus when you’re camped out in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear next fall.
Of course Barack Obama wasn’t going to take responsibility for his cataclysmic failure, or offer a frank discussion of why he didn’t use the pen and phone he keeps bragging about to get in touch with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and ask her how Healthcare.gov was coming along, or explain why five years of double-digit unemployment persists despite his several dozen dramatic “pivots” to combat it. No, he just can’t wait to tell us all about income inequality, and the exciting plans he has for dealing with it, as soon as we surrender more control over our lives.
Naturally an endless quest to battle an entirely subjective “crisis” appeals to the Left. There has always been, and always will be, “income inequality.” It’s exactly as much of a problem at any given moment as the Left says it is. It might seem odd for Obama to make a big deal about it when the studies he loves to cite show it’s been getting worse under his Administration, but he’ll have a thousand excuses for that. No liberal is ever going to be held accountable for making income inequality worse, or even criticized for his or her own personal indulgence in highly unequal income.
For example, Silicon Valley mogul Tom Perkins recently penned a letter to the editors of the Wall Street Journal that has officially been classified as Highly Outrageous by every other media organization, in which he said the current politics of envy might lead someplace dark and violent if we’re not careful. The letter, in its entirety, reads as follows:
Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”
From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these “techno geeks” can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a “snob” despite the millions she has spent on our city’s homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.
This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant “progressive” radicalism unthinkable now?
There isn’t just an “outraged public reaction” to the buses Google provides its employees in San Francisco – there have been demonstrations that blocked the buses, intimidation of passengers, menacing flyers that targeted individual employees by name, and vandalism. You can’t really blame anyone for hitting the hyperbole alert when Kristallnacht is mentioned, but in fairness to Perkins, he’s warning about the downward spiral of envy and where it can lead, not saying the modern equivalent of the brownshirts are marching in San Francisco right now.
Nevertheless, a stage one media freak-out was declared. Many pains were taken to stress how very rich Tom Perkins is, which supposedly disqualifies him from issuing any dark warnings about the dangers of hard-Left eat-the-rich political games and where they can lead. His fellow CEOs should probably keep their platinum-lined pie-holes shut, too. CBS News trotted out analyst Mellody Hobson to complain, “If you look today, the typical CEO makes 354 times more than the typical worker in his or her company, mostly because there are so few women running companies.”
What’s that got to do with anything? Female CEOs get paid less (because War on Women!) so if there were more of them running companies, income inequality wouldn’t be as bad? Or is it that women would be more compassionate and ensure their workers were paid better? Hobson went on to say that the pay disparity was far lower in the Eighties, but weren’t there even fewer women running companies back then? Why is this “inequality” getting worse under the most liberal president in the modern era, but it wasn’t as bad under Ronald Reagan? Why aren’t we supposed to be even more concerned with the stunning pay disparity between, say, Hollywood royalty and the little people who toil away in their industry? The Left seems totally cool with the vast fortunes amassed by people in the notoriously Left-leaning entertainment industry. Mellody Hobson might have some insight on that point, because her husband happens to be a somewhat successful film director and producer. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. His name is George Lucas.
Maybe Tom Perkins wanted to cultivate controversy. It’s hard to imagine anyone in this day and age – let alone a big figure in the tech industry – would think he could invoke the specter of Nazi Germany without touching off a firestorm. He could have made his point in a less incendiary way. Weaponized envy does have a way of blowing up in everyone’s faces. The goal of the income inequality crusade, beyond the short-term need to get everyone off Obama’s back about his health-care disaster, is to greatly expand the power of the State. That process makes us into a nation of criminals.
The government has a monopoly on coercive force, after all, and people imagine such force will be directed at villains and lawbreakers – that’s why they’re willing to give the State a moral license to deploy its destructive, often deadly, power. If income inequality were only a result of differences in opportunity and effort – a result of talent, hard work, and even pure blind luck – there would be no room for government action, because none of those things is wrong. We are supposed to be apprehensive about sinister forces that Obama and his allies will punish on our behalf. Their detective work will find no evidence of wrongdoing in the Left’s beloved entertainment industry, because those people clearly earn their millions – just look at all the tickets and albums they sell! But plenty of other shadowy criminals will be found lurking in the dark recesses of corporate boardrooms and gated communities.
In order for government power to expand, and the sphere of liberty to contract, an ever-growing cohort of villains must be detected. The absence of “fairness” is unfairness, which implies the existence of sinister elements determined to rob people of what they deserve. Statists can only get so far by promising to insure the public against random misfortune. They can only squeeze people who are seen as honorable and law-abiding so hard for cash. They need the public to hate their revenue targets before they can squeeze hard enough to satisfy their ambitions. Say, did you know corporate CEOs make 354 times as much as the typical workers in their companies?
Who can be surprised if a few eager vigilantes decide to start meting out “justice,” when gridlocked Washington doesn’t move fast enough?