This is a remarkable article, written by the Washington Post "White House economics reporter." It could not have been more favorably written by Mr. Obama's own team. In it, the "reporter" (and yes, I use those quotes to separate him in this instance from those who at least feign reporting vice advocacy) takes us on Barack Obama's political journey with respect to that demon "income inequality". You remember, Barack Obama, right? The man less concerned with the debt and deficit than in chasing his elusive vision of "fairness"? The man who won't work with Republicans on revenue positive closures of loopholes and credits that would assuredly bring in more revenue (though revenue is earned, taxes are confiscated), focusing instead on making the world's most progressive tax system even more progressive, so that "the rich" pay more of their "fair share"? The man who told a debate moderator during the 2008 race that even though two successive Presidents had lowered the capital gains rate AND RAISED MORE REVENUE from it, he would consider raising it as an issue of "fairness"? Yes. That Barack Obama.
In this article, the reporter does what most mainstream media reporters does. He simply states that income inequality is a bad thing, without spending even a single sentence in explanation for WHY it is a bad thing. There are a few lame attempts. Here's one: "As Obama did in legislative fights during his first term, he also will
be striving to reduce a three-decades-long wave of rising income
inequality that has meant that fewer Americans have prospered while more
struggle to get by." Clearly, by reading this, one would surmise that there was a cause and effect relationship between income inequality and "fewer" Americans prospering. Well--I'm waiting....what is it. Worse yet, his statement is seriously open to interpretation. If by prospering and struggling to get by, we consider the lot of the bottom of the economic scale, the statement is simply incorrect as this Heritage paper does a good job of describing.
Here's another example of the laziness--or perhaps the downright bias--of the reporter. "Among 35 of the world’s most developed countries, according to the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only a handful of
national tax systems do less than the U.S. code to reduce income
inequality." While this may be true (again though, I have no opinion on whether we should focus on income inequality until I can be convinced that there is something wrong with it, or at least that we can identify WHY and HOW it is wrong, and why something that has ALWAYS existed to some degree is suddenly so determinative), the same report tells us that the US tax code is THE MOST PROGRESSIVE code among the same countries. Read this unusually well written column from The Atlantic that gives convincing evidence of this. Here's a wonderful line from the piece, one by which I imagine many Americans (and most Democrats) would be surprised: "Why, according to the OECD, is the US system so progressive? Not because
the rich face unusually high average tax rates, but because
middle-income US households face unusually low tax rates--an important
point which de Rugy mentions and Chait ignores."
So what we have in this piece is a "reporter" who obviously believes income inequality to be the primary bugaboo in our system, identifying the President's acceptance of the reporter's primary bugaboo as a positive development within a hagiography of the President. Nowhere does the reporter attempt to investigate the studies that either 1) challenge the degree of "income inequality" others cite 2) challenge the notion of inequality as relevant measure or 3) assign policy blame to the level of inequality that does in fact, exist--specifically, the transfer of wealth from young to old. None of this is covered.
We will hear about this non-stop for the next four years. Mr. Obama and his friends in Congress are not interested in righting our economic ship; they are interested in a vision of "fairness" in which yes--the rich get poorer....but then so do the poor. Income inequality is a measure of envy, not of fairness.