Last week’s State of the Union address should have been easy innings for rightbloggers: Just talk about how Obama stinks and get back to Benghazi. But the President threw a curve: He alluded, albeit vaguely, to that “income equality” thing the kids are all talking about.
It was an obvious trap, but never underestimate the brethren’s propensity to get stuck in those when Obama sets them up. They came out roaring against the (very popular) idea that there’s something bad about the huge gap between the hyperrich and Joe Sixpack, and some even proposed an alternative outrage, “social inequality,” that was all about how liberals were the real oligarchs because they made fun of such champions of the common man as Sarah Palin.
Some were disposed by temperament and training to go after Obama’s speech in the traditional manner — that is, as evidence of his usual tyranny, because he had promised to use his pen and his phone to deliver executive orders when Congress wouldn’t act — something he does less frequently than most of his forebears, though professional fist-shakers really want to believe otherwise.
Even Forbes‘ Thomas J. Basile had to acknowledge, “True, the speech wasn’t as ‘in your face’ as conservative pundits predicted. To have done so would have been even less Presidential than we are used to from this White House.”
Nonetheless, Basile had plenty of evidence of Obama’s overreach: drones, the IRS, and “the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, once headed by Elizabeth Warren, also now a key cog in the Obama Administration’s effort to regulate industries and personal decision-making.”
Plus there was Obama’s assertion “that no one should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote.” Whatever that sounds like to you, to Basile it “sounds like the kind of ambiguous language that could lend itself to loosening voting requirements or at least another innocuously-named government agency to ‘investigate’ voter behavior.”
But the real outrage for rightbloggers was Obama’s reference to income equality. Whether or not you think he can or even really wants to do anything about it, this was politically sound: Polls show people worry about it, and Republicans are so strongly branded as handmaidens of the rich that they can hardly be coherent in their opposition, as GOP Senator Mike Lee showed in his “inequality Godzilla” speech, one of 64 official Republican responses to the SOTU, in which he told viewers that abortion was the real inequality. (Lee did have the support of Twitchy, Michelle Malkin’s alternative-universe Twitter, which said “Bam! Sen. Lee always cuts right to the chase with no craven equivocating,” which is wingnut for “Don’t worry, no one was watching.”)
The timing wasn’t great for conservatives, either. As we pointed out last week, venture capitalist Tom Perkins and other rich folks have taken to declaring themselves the real victims of America’s alleged class war who face a “Kristallnacht” of have-not rage. Rightbloggers have risen to this questionable bait by defending these self-pitying millionaires, which seems a strange way to sway the masses toward conservatism.
Some of the brethren just tried to wish it into the cornfield. “Has ‘Income Inequality’ Become Code For ‘Envy?'” asked Elise Hilton of the Acton Institute Power Blog. (After consulting with St. Thomas Aquinas and the only Kurt Vonnegut story any conservative has ever read all the way through, she decided yes, it was.)
Rush Limbaugh denounced the “so-called widening gap between the rich and the poor,” a lie spread by Democrats who “tell the poor and the middle class that the Democrats are looking out for ’em” — which would be bad enough, but these Democrats also tell the poor that they’re “gonna get even with those rich people. They’re gonna get there, and they’re gonna have theirs taken away. They’re gonna lose theirs, and you’re supposed to feel good about that.” The poor, being feral creatures, are excited by this, and will enlist in Obama’s war against white people.
“This is the communist manifesto as physical reality,” burbled Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom, who explained that when “I gave up what could have been a career in academia in order to have a stay at home parent for our children… that was my choice… it was a tradeoff I was willing to make, and one that as a free man I was free to make.” Obama giving a speech, however, was the latest in a series of last straws and, Goldstein said, unless a consortium of patriots “kneecaps the federal government and overruns the bureaucracies that Obama is using for his socialist coup… we are finished as a nation, and the only recourse is to either become subsumed into a new iteration of the United States or find some other recourse through which those of us who won’t go quietly don’t go quietly.” We wonder if Goldstein will be a stay-at-home revolutionary as well.
The more intellectual brethren were even more embarrassing.
Jack Kerwick of FrontPageMag demanded to know, if you libs are against income inequality, why don’t you make pencils cost the same as computers? “The price of an Apple computer and that of a pencil are radically ‘unequal,'” sneered Kerwick. “So too are there massive ‘disparities’ between the respective prices of a Mercedes Benz and a tricycle…”
After a cascade of scare quotes (“capitalist,” “close the gap,” “asked,” “racism,” etc), Kerwick drove his thought experiment into some truly wild terrain: “A truly devoted egalitarian wouldn’t rest,” he roared, “until mono-racial families were desegregated, their members ‘redistributed’ to other families and homes. At the same time, those who aspire to marry and procreate intra-racially would be prevented from doing so via reverse miscegenation laws.” That’s the logical outcome of Obamafascism — Indentured negritude! Haven’t you sheeple ever read “Harrison Bergeron”?
“Is the janitor supposed to make the same as the brain surgeon?” riddle-me-thised Mike Peters of Pocket Full of Liberty. “Is the bad brain surgeon supposed to make the same as the good brain surgeon? Profit is the absolute best motivator for conduct… If the two brain surgeons were guaranteed to earn the same amount of money no matter how hard they worked or how well they performed their job, what is the incentive for one to outperform the other?” He’s got a point — we all know how, in Britain’s socialist National Health Service, the brain surgeons just stick knives in your head and muck around, since there’s no incentive to do a good job.
“During a recent lunch in a restaurant, someone complimented my wife on the perfume she was wearing,” said Thomas Sowell. “But I was wholly unaware that she was wearing perfume, even though we had been in a car together for about half an hour, driving to the restaurant.”
That’s a very sad story — oh, sorry, there’s more? “But there is one thing I can smell far better than most people,” continued Sowell — “gas escaping.” He once smelled gas outside someone’s home and left a note for the people, you see, and they called the gas company and it turned out they had a gas leak. Point is, some people can smell perfume and some can smell gas, and that’s why we have income inequality: “Intellectuals’ obsession with income statistics — calling envy ‘social justice’ — ignores vast differences in productivity that are far more fundamental to everyone’s well-being,” said Sowell. So if you can smell gas, maybe you can get a job as a rightwing columnist, too.
Others accepted that, okay, maybe the economic disparity between classes had gotten a little out of hand, and fumbled for solutions that were not like Obama’s, i.e., would not make the rich mad.
Zachary Gappa of TownHall, for example, plagued-on-both-their houses conservatives and liberals, with their “simplistic conflict” between “‘markets will fix it’ vs. ‘government will fix it.'” Instead, Gappa offered “a significant third solution” that “typically goes ignored: Christian charity.” If all the Christians tithed like they’re supposed to, we wouldn’t need food stamps or any of that statist junk.
Not that conservatives were off the hook, either: Under Gappaism, “charity in the business sphere will at times require a business owner, manager, or CEO to forego some profits in an effort to ensure the well-being and sustenance of his or her employees.” Gappa didn’t say how this would be achieved, but it’s a cinch there’d be no laws to enforce it, because Gappa is against liberals who want to “just pass your duty along to the government,” thus “turning it into a universal legal requirement…” So the care of the poor would be left to divine inspiration, as it more or less is at present. See, he’s meeting you halfway!
Another Christian, Owen Strachan of Pantheos, found “a nice response to the quandary of ‘income inequality'” in the CNBC show “Shark Tank.” Strachan described how it worked: People come to the show with business ideas, and rich people give them money in exchange for a piece of the action. If the idea succeeds, “the economy gets a little boost, unemployment takes a little hit, and God is glorified by the taking of dominion,” said Strachan. If you don’t have a money-making idea, or if the guys on “Shark Tank” don’t think it’s good enough to fund, there’s always the power of prayer.
The pressure of defending inequality got to be too much for some of the brethren, and in desperation they came up with a form of inequality they could, with a little spit, attach to liberalism.
Mickey Kaus, an EvenTheLiberal who had written about income inequality in the past, found his subject claimed by the hated Obama, and so was compelled to explain to his conservative fans that actually “there are two kinds of growing inequality — and the Democrats are attacking the wrong one.”
First he explained that Democrats were offering too little to ease the income-equality phenomenon — “they got nothin’,” “a blip,” etc. Rather than encourage the Democrats to do more, however, he encouraged readers to look at inequality not as a real problem, but as a matter of “sentiments.” What Americans really want, Kaus assured readers, is “to make sure the rich don’t start feeling they’re better than the rest of us,” like they do in The Wolf of Wall Street.
You may think that the poor would rather be less poor, but Kaus brushed this off as the “shallow democracy of what is, after all, only money,” as opposed to the deep democracy of feeling equal. What was needed, Kaus said, was more “social equality,” which “is harder to measure than money inequality” — and thus, a cynic might add, harder to remedy with progressive taxation, higher minimum wages, or anything else that might discomfit the rich.
So instead of “a doomed crusade to reverse the tides of purely economic inequality,” Kaus floated ideas that wouldn’t touch the earnings of the 1%, such as
the repeal of Obamacare “that ObamaCare can be changed” — for that is a true cause of social inequality, since “affluent Americans sign up for totally different medical networks than people who have less to spend,” reasoned Kaus, which tends to “make Americans feel less like equals, even if they get subsidized.” If you want to pitchfork somebody, pitchfork Obama for making you take free Medicaid and feel poor! [*See update, end of story.]
What kind of person actually goes for this kind of stuff? Rightbloggers, many of whom unfortunately felt the need to add their own embellishments.
Ace of Spades tied Kausian social inequality to mean jokes about Sarah Palin, which are not told by regular people, apparently, but only by members of the “New Class.” Spades did not say what that term meant; near as we can tell from his previous ravings on the subject, it includes TV people who don’t believe in Jesus and are jealous of Steven Spielberg, as well as people who went to Ivy League schools who aren’t Ted Cruz, and anyone who addresses transgender people respectfully. In this post, Spades fantasized that liberals with “top jobs in the media field” are offended that “some rumpled-and-déclassé – hedge fund manager should be able to just swagger his way past the line at Nobu and get a table immediately…” Maybe Spades gets this from a close reading of Edith Wharton. Well, let’s just say by “New Class” he means rich people who don’t vote Republican and let it go at that.
Anyway, Spades said of this New Class, “their disdain has a nasty personal edge to it — they disapprove of [Palin] and the class she hails from. The New Class is not to content itself with disparaging Palin. They actively wish to include millions of Americans they’ve never even met inside the broad circle of their angry, arrogant disdain…” When you’re running down Miz Palin, hoss, you’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of Spades. You seldom see a rich conservative mocking the half-term governor of Alaska, and when they do they get smacked down! That’s how you solve social inequality, not some dumb money thing.
Bill Reeves blamed social inequality on the Obama Administration and its fancy-pants college types, “the most academically elitist in history with more of its top 250 staffers attending Oxford than any state university system and the vast, vast majority of them coming from the northeast Ivy ghettos,” whereas George W. Bush got his people from Manpower and ads in the penny-saver. (Also, Obama himself enjoys the NewClassiness, with his “Punaho, Columbia, Harvard Law and chocolate skin.”)
To solve social inequality, Reeves said “blue elites will need to stop pursuing elitist goals like green or smart growth and side with the little guy” — who actually prefers his drinking water laced with formaldehyde like they have in West Virginia, we guess. Also, Reeves blamed liberal-rich-people’s isolation from the poor, because in places like New York they may live whole city blocks apart, whereas “in flyover places like MN or TX the rich live much closer to the poor and middle class,” and these Noble Rich frequently open the gates of their McMansions to allow their less fortunate brothers in to mow and water their lawns.
“Income inequality didn’t create the economic crisis,” insisted Daniel Greenfield of FrontPageMag, “botched attempts to remedy inequality with government subsidies that were monetized by liberal billionaires did. The roots of the economic crisis lie in the intersection between Wall Street and the welfare state. That same intersection has given us Barack Obama, Paul Krugman and severe unemployment and income inequality.” This theory that liberal millions wind up going toward the destruction of the United States and conservatives millions go toward building it up is interesting; Greenfield should next accumulate some proof of the phenomenon, perhaps by stamping dollar bills a la wheresgeorge.com.
Some of these social-inequality promoters also proposed a solution that would cost the rich nothing: Marriage. The marriage-makes-you-rich concept has been a rightwing thing for a while, but the income inequality threat excited new interest in it.
On Larry Kudlow’s CNBC show, Naomi Schaefer Riley talked about “assortative dating” (probably a reference to “assortative mating,” a wingnut buzzterm lifted by the current debate) in which “bosses are no longer marrying their secretaries, they’re marrying other bosses, and that absolutely contributes to income inequality.” Also, “married households tend to be richer,” whereas paupers tend not to marry at all, causing, per entrepreneur/author Carol Roth, “not just an economic imbalance, but a socioeconomic imbalance,” etc. So the solution is clear, paupers: 1.) get a job, 2.) marry your boss, 3.) profit!
“President Obama deserves the sobriquet of Mr. Inequality,” claimed former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell at The Daily Caller, because of his godless anti-marriagism. “We have long known that family — especially the two-parent, married family — is vital for upward mobility,” said Blackwell. “So is regular attendance at a church or synagogue, and working for or starting a small business.” Yet “this administration has promoted abortion-on-demand since its first days in office” and “does not think out-of-wedlock births are a problem.”
In a moment of clarity and perhaps regret, Blackwell admitted that “the government cannot order young people to go to church or synagogue,” but he still thought it should “give space and respect for what have been called mediating institutions in society.” As the essay went full-on stream-of-consciousness at this juncture, we aren’t sure what Blackwell means by “space and respect,” though we did learn he disapproves of Obamacare giving out slut pills so, who knows, maybe that.
“The strongest predictor of upward mobility, it turns out, is one that conservatives have been touting for years,” said David Harsanyi: “Getting married — not higher levels of ‘social justice’ — is the key predictor for success.” (Harsanyi’s essay appeared in Reason, the flagship of that conservative sect called “libertarianism,” where you can also find an interview about how Obama is the real inequalitist by libertarian heartthrob and anti-abortion crusader Ted Cruz.)
At TownHall John C. Goodman also told the paupers to marry up and get rich — and also instructed them to get jobs, which seems to be cheating — and lashed out, as one does, at Paul Krugman. “I have never seen a Krugman column discussing how the solution to inequality is for those at the bottom of the income ladder to change their behavior,” huffed Goodman. “Instead, we find the ever-present hint that those at the top are somehow to blame.” Yeah, what effects can the one-percent possibly have on the lives of the poor? It’s not like they can get married for them!
So: Income inequality is in the news, and if anyone wants to find out what where conservatives stand on it, he can flip around the internet and find what we’ve described. It doesn’t seem like a winning pitch to us, but who knows — maybe someone will put out a new remake of Arthur and Americans will learn to love the rich all over again.
*UPDATE: Kaus protests that he did not, as we originally wrote, call for the “repeal” of Obamacare. That’s true, and we regret the error — he expressed hope of a “change” in the program, so that rich and poor alike could see the same doctors. He further challenges us to show how his plan involves “not touching the earnings of the 1%,” but we still see nothing in his proposal — which you can read here — that would do so.