Who says income and wealth inequality doesn’t exist or isn’t much of a problem? Politico reports that more and more Republicans are seeing the need to address rising concerns about it, a clue to how much the conversation has changed.
But don’t think for a moment that this lends any aid and comfort to the liberal diagnosis of our ills. In an argument that we may be hearing more of, GOP Rep. Bill Flores of Texas says it actually validates the conservative worldview:
“Absolutely, there’s huge income inequality, and it started right here in Washington. The way we fix that is getting the government out of the way of the private sector so we can put these people to work.”
Well, okay, acknowledging that there’s a problem is an important first step. But this one is worth dwelling on, because it’s very revealing about the overall conservative response to Occupy Wall Street, inequality, and the push for tax fairness.
The other day, Paul Krugman wrote about what he called the right’s “multi layer defense” when faced with inconvenient, but undeniable, evidence. He noted that this approach “involves not only denying facts but then, in a pinch, denying the fact that you denied those facts”:
Think about climate change. You have various right-wingers simultaneously (a) denying that global warming is happening (b) denying that anyone denies that global warming is happening, but denying that humans are responsible (c) denying that anyone denies that humans are causing global warming, insisting that the real argument is about the appropriate response.
I’m not sure there are three levels (yet) on inequality, but we definitely have (a) right-wingers denying that inequality is rising and (b) denying that anyone is denying the rise in inequality, but attacking any proposal to limit that rise.
Well, now we do have three stages of denial and evasion on inequality and taxes. Actually, four. Here they are:
(a) Inequality isn’t a big deal, and the rich already pay more than their fair share of the tax burden.
(b) We never said inequality and tax unfairness aren’t problems. (See Paul Ryan’s speech, in which he said that “nobody disagrees” that “bus drivers shouldn’t pay a higher effective tax rate than millionaires.”)
(c) We never disputed the basic liberal case that no one gets rich without a larger functioning society that helped make it possible for the rich to amass their wealth. But asking them to pay a bit more to support that society still amounts to collectivist tyranny, because, well, just because. (See George Will.)
(d) We never said inequality wasn’t a very serious problem that does require fixing, but it validates what we’ve been saying all along and confirms that government should do even less to address it. (Rep. Flores’s latest.)