The income inequality game

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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The war on poverty has been about as successful as the war on drugs. But while the trend toward decriminalization of marijuana implies a thawing of hostilities on the former front, President Obama intends to double down on the latter quagmire.

This is ironic, inasmuch as the president’s policies have, heretofore, contributed to (or, at least, failed to solve) the problem of income inequality. After five years at the nation’s helm, the fact that we are debating raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits should serve as an indictment on his policies, not a rationale for extending them. It should chasten his supporters, not embolden them to escalate their plans. Yet, just as ObamaCare’s failures could pave the way to single payer (“if we just made the plan more liberal!”), Obamanomics’ failures might lead to more Obamanomics. Sometimes you win by losing.

(As an aside, I also find it ironic that liberal Hollywood helps celebrate a sort of bacchanalian existence which glamorizes consumerism and promiscuity — things which, when replicated by the poor and middle class — probably contribute more to creating long-term income disparity than any economic policy ever could. Culture is downstream from politics, and the left, it seems, profits from selling liberal economics as a means to solve problems largely created upstream by a liberal worldview.)

Of course, Obama’s focus on income inequality has more to do with politics than with helping poor people, anyway. If Democrats really cared about raising the minimum wage, they would have fought for it during the Murray-Ryan budget deal a few weeks ago. And if they truly want to extend unemployment, they will find a way to pay for it. But it is the fight, not the solution, that they relish.

In terms of political theater, this is a smart play. During 2012, Obama was able to focus on this potent, if divisive, issue. But in 2013, a series of scandals and a disastrous ObamaCare rollout changed the subject. His New Year’s resolution, it seems, is to get his groove back. And the way to do that is to cast the haves against the have nots. The fact that his policies won’t help — and might hurt — is really irrelevant.