Median household income for family of 4 = $51,000. Value of #Oscar swag bag = $85000. Hollywood speeches on inequality = Priceless.
— Pundit Review (@PunditReview) March 1, 2014
For Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela’s death came like manna from heaven. After all, until Mandela’s passing sucked all the oxygen out of any other news stories, the headlines, even from Obama’s staunchest cheerleaders, were about Obamacare. The cheerleaders printed stories bravely admitting that the exchange is still bedeviled with problems, but assuring Americans that it’s way much, super-de-dooper, extraordinarily, wonderfully better and will soon be functioning perfectly. The naysayers not only pointed out flaws in the system, and told heartrending stories about on the people consigned to death because of those flaws, but also warned that the worst is yet to come. Newspapers and TV news stories were no longer happy places for our president.
Before Mandela’s timely passing, Obama attempted to change the subject by pivoting, yet again, to “economic inequality.” (Or as Ed Driscoll nicely said, “It’s Deja Pivot All Over Again.“) Boiled down to its essence, this Progressive (read: communist) world view says that there are poor people in America and there are rich people in America, and that’s simply not fair. All people should be poor!! Okay, the Progressives don’t actually say that last sentence, but one only has to look at every communist experiment in the history of the world to know that this is the reality behind heavy-handed government “correction” of “economic inequality.”
The Occupy movement, which nobody remembers now, was supposed to be the protest to end all protests when it came to economic inequality. Americans were expected to rise up against the evil one-percent. Only that didn’t happen. Too many Americans were unimpressed when they saw computer-toting Ivy League students making common cause with drug addicts, felons, rapists, all of them complaining that a tiny percentage of Americans are very, very rich. This cavalier response worsened when Americans realized that the Progressive/Democrat party is rife with one-percenters (Obama, Kerry, the Clintons, Pelosi, Reid, etc.), and reached a peak of disgust when the Occupy camps become rat-ridden cesspools that cost cities tens of thousands of dollars to clean up.
While a certain percentage of Americans, when polled, will reliably say they hate that the rich are so rich while their incomes are stagnating (although too few realize that Obama’s statist economic policies cause this stagnation), the reality is that, to Progressives’ (and Obama’s) despair, Americans just can’t get all that worked up about “economic inequality.” This reality lies in the fact that Americans know something Obama, Democrats, Progressives, and other Leftists refuse to recognize: America does not have a roach motel economy and that’s despite the Left’s best efforts to turn it into one.
What’s a “roach motel economy,” you ask? It’s one in which people are frozen in place, with minimal economic or social movement. That is, they check into an economic stratum, but they don’t check out. Or, as a spoiled prince says to Aladdin in the eponymous movie, “You are a worthless street rat. You were born a street rat, you’ll die a street rat, and only your fleas will mourn you!”
One doesn’t have to look to Disney to see what a roach motel economy looks like. In all non-free market societies, whether we’re talking ancient Mesopotamia, medieval Europe, or Castro’s Cuba, it’s not just that, as the Bible says, “the poor you always have with you.” What’s common to all these societies is that the same people are always poor. Check into Mesopotamia, 16th century France, or Cuba, and you’ll see that if the father was poor, then his father was poor, and his father was poor . . . going back to time immemorial (or the Cuban revolution). In each of these stagnant, stratified societies, there were always a few who managed to claw their way up the hierarchy, and another few who carelessly squandered their way down the hierarchy, but class and economic status were fixed. Likewise, in communist countries, everybody’s poor together, world without end, amen.
Just like Black Flag’s famous “Roach Motel,” poor people check in, but they don’t check out, nor do their children or grandchildren. Economic status (and class status) are fixed:
Up until Obama and his cohorts came along, the American view was very different. Class was mostly determined by economic status, and economic status was open to anyone who had the discipline and wits (and sometimes the gambler’s instinct) to make it happen. As the wonderful Tenement Museum in New York shows through census studies, immigrants lived in poverty, their children became working class, and their grandchildren were middle class or beyond. If you’re born into poverty in America, neither you nor your descendents are likely to become Bill Gates, but in a generation or so, unless you’ve become hooked on Welfare-crack, you’ll have left the slums behind. In a free-market society, with maximum individual freedom, social and economic mobility are a reality:
America hasn’t had a revolution because, Leftist propaganda to the contrary, the socio-economic boxes are not roach motels from which no one escapes. Instead, they’re stops along the road of one person’s life, or a family’s generations. People can check in and they can leave. Sometimes they move up and sometimes they move down, but movement is constant.
Of course, Obama and his crew are doing their damndest to halt this free flow of socio-economic movement. With true leftist instincts, through economic leveling, they want to consign this entire nation to the poverty box, subject to a few overlords who get to enjoy the nation’s vast resources. What these leftists don’t realize, though, is that America’s greatest resource has always been her people. Imprison them in poverty, and the overlords’ wealth will quickly vanish.
Victor Davis Hanson hits it out of the park with his post explaining why higher taxes are not the answer. Some of his twelve reasons are better than others, but all are worthy of your consideration. This is my favorite of the twelve, but I think you’ll like them all:
Liberals reply that income inequality is worse than ever. (Note here in their own lives they have no problem with other “merit”-based inequality: e.g., Why can’t Johnny Depp turn down a couple of roles so other less fortunate actors could star? Why doesn’t Cornel West at last break up his endowed mega-salaried professorship into three or four lectureships for the struggling part-timers? Why doesn’t Maureen Dowd go down to one column every other week to allow less compensated New York Times op-ed writers a chance to catch up? In other words, why not back off from the trough and let others have a go?) But back to income inequality: some of those figures are not just attributable to the proliferation of $200,000 orthodontists, but to factoring in the mega-fortunes of a Johnny Depp ($50 million last year in income alone) or a Warren Buffett. The onset of a globalized market allowed a new top bracket to make tens of millions of dollars, a world away from the lesser professional. There is no aggregate homogenous group of “the wealthy.” My big-farming near neighbor (500 acres in vineyard plus), who probably nets $300,000 on a rare good raisin year like this one, is a world away from the late Steve Jobs or the thousands of million-dollar-plus incomes in Silicon Valley. This incongruence is not a rhetorical point or special pleading, but evident through the president’s own rhetoric: “Millionaires and billionaires” is a deliberate attempt to weld two disparate groups together — one making 1000 times the other (if the president is talking of annual income), or one worth 1000 times more than the other (if the president is talking about net worth). But is the Menlo Park bungalow owner who teaches at Foothill College and might be “worth” $1 million (given housing inflation) really comparable to Meg Whitman? Mr. Obama knows that there is not enough of the 1% of the 1% to come up with enough revenue to cover his new $4 trillion in debt, but does he think that by going after the top 5% or 10%, well, there just may be?
I’m actually sensitive to this comparison issue, because Marin skews things. In most other parts of America (other than the other rich liberal enclaves scattered about America), we’d be rich. In Marin, we’re squarely in the middle. Because prices here are so ridiculously high, we live in a middle house, drive middle cars, shop at middle stores, and send our kids to public schools. If we had the same income in Kansas or Texas, we’d be much more comfortably situated — and in Texas, we wouldn’t be turning more than 50% of our money over to the government (state, federal and local).
Of course, we could move, but I like it here: our house is near my aged mother who is too old to be relocated; the temperate climate suits me, because I’m a wuss; and our neighborhood is unique by any standards, providing a truly perfect backdrop to raising decent, honest, nice children.