Income Inequality, And Other Assorted BS
John Gruber is perplexed with the state of affairs regarding last week’s elections. He quotes Nicholas Kristof:
CEOs of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.
And then Gruber opines:
Step back and (for the moment) avoid passing judgment on whether this state of affairs is good or bad. What’s fascinating is that against this backdrop, last week’s election went to the Republicans, who admit that their top priority is passing large tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans. I know much has been written about this, but I think it defies easy explanation how economic policies that benefit so very few enjoy the support of so many.
I can see how this would be confusing to a liberal guy like John, whose primary exposure to conservatives and conservative ideas is probably through the caricatures and straw-men presented in the dominantly-liberal mainstream media, and their smear-merchant allies on sites like Kos and Media Matters. So let me clear this up.
First, the reason most Americans voted against the Democrats is that the Democrats have taken several gigantic steps that the majority of Americans opposed, in particular the passage of ObamaCare, the bailout of the
auto-makers auto unions, the bailouts of the "too big to fail" banks, and the attacks on Arizona for attempting to enforce immigration law and secure its borders. Americans are also appalled at the way in which the Democrats went about many of these issues, passing bills that are thousands of pages long, failing to post the bills online several days before voting on them, as they had promised to do, and failing to even read the bills themselves. So in this mid-term election, Americans weren’t so much voting for Republicans as voting against Democrats: you just can’t pack that much unpopular BS into two or three short years without the American people throwing you out.
Next there’s the issue of "passing large tax cuts for the rich." This is a straw man wrapped in a pile of spin. It’s not new tax cuts that are proposed, it’s new tax increases. Taxes are currently at a certain level, where they’ve been for about a decade, and Democrats want to increase them for some people, whereas Republicans don’t want to increase them for anyone. Conservatives (i.e. most Americans) oppose Democrat-led "soak the rich" schemes like this, for two reasons. First, because such schemes are wrong in theory: confiscating 40% of the earnings of some Americans, while nearly 50% of the country pays no income tax at all, is simply unjust. And second, because such schemes are wrong in practice: increasing taxes on the rich results in less tax revenue, not more, for the government to devour, while simultaneously damaging the economy as a whole by driving people and businesses offshore, and reducing hiring and growth.
Finally, let’s be completely clear about the implications of the term "income inequality," namely that it is some kind of problem that needs to be solved. The obvious "solution" would be income equality, which is just about the most un-American concept there is. Many liberals seem to have a utopian vision of pure equality, but there is no such thing, nor should there be: the truth is that free people are not equal, and equal people are not free. Americans grit their teeth when they hear terms like "income inequality" and "social justice," because they recognize the kinds of people who traffic in that terminology, and they recognize that the ultimate effect of those people’s ideology is to punish the most productive citizens in order to subsidize the least productive.
So no, these elections really do not defy easy explanation: most Americans simply reject the Democrat agenda. They disagree with it philosophically, and they sure as heck don’t approve of the effect it is having on the country. And I can’t decide whether it’s funny or sad that liberals, within the government and without, are eternally confounded by the fact that most Americans reject the notion that the government knows what’s best for them. It’s just so darn inconvenient for the ruling class when us stupid Americans refuse to recognize their superior intellect and refuse to accept their ideas about the size and scope of the government.