Even with average wages, adjusted for inflation, dropping for 21 of the last 23 months, higher rates of poverty, 23 million Americans unable to find regular work, ongoing $1 trillion deficits, ObamaCare pushing employers to cut full-time workers and hire part-timers, and the gross domestic product falling during the last quarter, there wasn’t much in President Obama’s second inaugural address about job creation, debt reduction, or economic growth.
Instead, it took only a few minutes into the speech before the rich became the target. Tying the ideals of the American revolution to his goals of economic leveling and income redistribution, Mr. Obama declared that “the patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few.”
It took Mr. Obama only a few additional minutes to deliver another slam at those with “privileges,” using the concept of a fixed pie in which someone can get a bigger slice only by reducing the slice sizes of everyone else. “For we, the people,” he declared, “understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”
It took only a few more minutes for the “shrinking few” with “privileges,” those with unearned and unfair advantages, to yet again become the villains. “We do not believe,” Mr. Obama proclaimed, “that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few.”
The “few” with “privileges,” in short, a “shrinking” overclass with a disproportionate share of “happiness” and “freedom,” are portrayed as “lucky,” not as hard-working, innovative, or productive, and not as job creators.
It was the same at the Democratic National Convention last September, with Mr. Obama linking his redistributionist agenda to the ideals of the American revolution. “A freedom which asks only, what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism,” he declared, “is unworthy of our founding ideals and those who died in their defense.”
And so, in addition to the “few” having unjust “privileges” and being “lucky,” the “shrinking” clique of America’s rich banditos is uncharitable, loveless, and unpatriotic.
Shifting to climate change in the inaugural address, Mr. Obama said that some may “deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”
True, fires and storms can be devastating, but there’s been no increase in fires, droughts or storms.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he proclaimed. He didn’t say that we’ll respond to the threat of adding $1 trillion a year in red ink to the $16 trillion federal debt, “knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
What also went unmentioned is that income data from the Census Bureau shows that median household income in the United States, adjusted for inflation, dropped by $4,019 per household during the first three-and-a half-years of the Obama administration.
On reversing this decline, nothing was said in the inaugural address about the positive correlation between increases in private sector investment, growth in productivity, and increases in household income — and nothing was said about how these income increases are derailed by expanded government regulations, new federal mandates, and tax hikes on dividends, high earners, and capital gains.
Politically, it may be a winning strategy for gaining votes by way of shifting the blame for a failing economy from inept politicians and counterproductive government policies to “the rich.” Politically, that may work, but it’s an agenda that creates more disharmony than growth, more bitterness than jobs.
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics and the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.