Monday, January 30, 2012

Income Inequality: Should We Blame The Poor Instead Of Vilifying The Rich?

OK, tongue-in-cheek post title, for sure.  But James Q. Wilson makes a valid point (not that Democrats pay much attention to those things):

We could reduce income inequality by trying to curtail the financial returns of education and the number of women in the workforce — but who would want to do that?

The real income problem in this country is not a question of who is rich, but rather of who is poor. Among the bottom fifth of income earners, many people, especially men, stay there their whole lives. Low education and unwed motherhood only exacerbate poverty, which is particularly acute among racial minorities.

Making the poor more economically mobile has nothing to do with taxing the rich and everything to do with finding and implementing ways to encourage parental marriage, teach the poor marketable skills and induce them to join the legitimate workforce. It is easy to suppose that raising taxes on the rich would provide more money to help the poor. But the problem facing the poor is not too little money, but too few skills and opportunities to advance themselves.

So why can't Barack Obama campaign on giving the poor the social and institutional skill set they need to take advantage of the financial opportunities that present themselves in a capitalistic society?

Because he's not a capitalist? True that, but simplistic. He's campaigned on plenty of things he hasn't believed it.

Because he's scared of being seen as criticizing minorities, a la Bill Cosby or Spike Lee, and thus alienating a crucial base he must have in order to be re-elected to a second term?

Ah. More likely. Conservatives and center-right independents might agree with him, but would still likely vote Republican, offering him few new votes to replace the many he would be risking.

But the real reason why he won't touch this difficult truth with a ten-foot pole?  It's because Obama has nothing to run on in 2012 - the fact that he barely even mentioned his record in his SOTU speech last week (besides repeating, ad nasuem, how "he" got bin Laden) means he realizes how hostile most Americans are to it. And certainly, Obama cannot run on "more of the same" in 2012; that's why his popularity is scraping  bottom in the first place. And besides, "Completing the march towards our glorious Socialist future!" is not a winning campaign slogan either.

So he has to run against something, and as a "protector of America" from something. In a different time a leader would blame it on/run against the Jews, but Obama needs their money, and thus picked a group that is almost synonymous with them and seem as equally evil: The Rich.  Even if, as Wilson makes clear above, they have nothing to do with "income inequality" and may in fact have everything to do with bringing the nation back from the brink.

For what it is worth, I will give the president notice that this might not quite be a winning strategy. Salena Zito, writing about the rising Jacksonian streak in American voters:

Class warfare is not winning populism. Jacksonians are about being for something, not against success.

Liberals have historic memories of populist violence (i.e., World War I), so their intellectuals just can't get "masses arise" out of their minds, (Eldon Eisenach, University of Tulsa political science professor emeritus) says. "So the populism of 'Occupy' or the attempt of Obama to capture a populist strain in Republican progressivism just won't work.

"The one theme (independents) have that is Jacksonian is to get the federal government off their backs and out of their pockets -- hardly what Obama or Occupy have in mind."

Today, we're all political Whigs to some degree, seeking respectability..

Except the president, who will cover himself in mud, and attempt to divide us as a nation by telling us our problems can be solved by seeking vengeance against those who achieved success while we did not.

Doesn't sound like much of a plan. But then again, if Obama does go down in 2012, one will have to believe, in a thin-skinned pique of rage, he will try to take as as much of the nation down with him as he can...

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