Is it the season, the now-traditional December battle over extending unemployment benefits, fiscal doomsday returning on January 15, or Friday’s deadline for legislators to accomplish the impossible and agree on spending? Whichever you choose, the White House is making sure income inequality is front and center as the midterm battle lines are drawn. Administration flunkies like Labor Secretary Perez have even tempered their usual gush over the newest jobs numbers to remind everyone about America’s deal with the huddled masses:
As the president underscored earlier this week, growing inequality and a lack of upward mobility has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain — that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.1
The bargain boils down to how much we need to scrape together in the name of fixing inequality. Will fear seize lawmakers facing budget decisions and render them useless as what our government decides it should fund threatens reelection campaigns that will focus on who has, who doesn’t, and whose fault it is?
Does new report reveal that liberals and Democrats lie about taxes?
We were deluged with presidential remarks like this as the 2010 battle over extending tax rates raged between liberals bent on costly social engineering and conservatives in search of fiscal restraint:
Well, let me say that on the Republican side, this is their holy grail, these tax cuts for the wealthy. This is — seems to be their central economic doctrine.2
In lieu of offering their constituents jobs or prosperity, Democrats have had a grand time beating up on wealthier Americans. A new Congressional Budget Office report puts numbers behind their charges and confirms what the fiscally conservative already assumed: while they were being accused of destroying the middle class, higher income Americans shelled out 68.8%3 of the nation’s tax dollars:
Higher-income households pay much more in federal taxes than do their lower-income counterparts. They have a much greater share of the nation’s before-tax income, and they pay a much larger proportion of that income in taxes.4
Ironically, given White House complaints about Americans who took home one-third of the country’s income,5 those who didn’t fall into a higher income group only provided one-third of the government’s tax haul.
Income inequality is not what it sounds like.
How much income inequality can liberals fix with our money and how much should we tax and spend so everyone reaches the center? The president warns that inequality is damaging to our political system:
Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. (Applause.)6
He probably forgot what he spent on his 2008 election campaign and again during his reelection quest last year. Perhaps the ethical guidelines he applies to campaign spending don’t apply to Democrats.
Inequality damages our democracy when it is used to punish social class, but going after the wealthy is the only way Democrats can seize enough revenue to fund promises to level the playing field. Once we get a half-baked budget fix in place, midterm rhetoric will fire up in earnest with calls to force business owners to pay middle class incomes with a minimum wage hike, to steal inheritances by taxing them twice, to close loopholes and overhaul the tax code, and implement all the other fixes for inequality in America that reek of the class warfare Barack Obama steadfastly denies. The wealthy may be less sympathetic vote-getters than the underprivileged, but that doesn’t make it right.