Republicans sometimes have trouble getting across the idea that government can cause more inequality. Thankfully, the Obama administration and the Senate Democrats are giving us loads of examples.
Let’s start with energy. Monday night a group of senators mostly from the coasts (Barbara Boxer from California, Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut), where belief in climate change is akin to belief in gravity and where big donors (some of whom have “green companies”) care a lot about this issue, lectured the country (or those with insomnia Monday night) on the evils of carbon fuels. Forget for a moment — the Dems sure did — the pipeline workers, the commuters’ costs at the pump and the cumulative economic effect of domestic energy production. And forget the national security implications (freedom from Arab states’ oil, leverage with Vladimir Putin). You would think as a pure political matter the Dems, who swore inequality was the most important issue, would feel a tad bit awkward pushing for a set of policies that raise consumer prices, drag down economic growth and redistribute jobs from the private energy sector to the government-subsidized green sector. (You wonder if this same calculus is at work with the Keystone XL pipeline.)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has rolled out his own package of proposals to spur upward mobility, told Right Turn on Tuesday evening, “There is absolutely an enormous gap between the Democratic Party’s populist self-image and cronyist agenda. On energy, education, jobs, transportation, regulation, and every major issue facing the economy, big government unfairly privileges elites at the expense of the little guy.”
He’s right that it doesn’t stop with energy. Obamacare, of course, is the great transfer of wealth from the young and healthy to the older and sicker. Older people are doing well, while college debt, a rotten job market and a slow-growth economy wreak havoc with young adults. Not to worry! President Obama will get all those young people to take one for the team and sign up to subsidize the costs of heavy users of medical services. Except the young people balked. They aren’t interested in transferring their limited resources by buying a plan they don’t need and can’t afford. News reports tell us that Obamacare enrollments lag the administration’s goals and only about 25 percent are the young, healthy people the president has been begging to sign up. The president said that if those people don’t sign up, the whole thing doesn’t work. The benchmark for success was the high 30s. It seems the wealth-transfer program met with resistance.
There are a lot of other inequality-makers in the president’s budget, from cutting discretionary spending (while letting entitlements soar) to corporate welfare. Oh yes — Dems are opposed to school choice because of teachers unions. Giving them a near-monopoly on K-12 education is just one more way to dampen mobility and increase inequality.
Republican Ed Gillespie, who is challenging Sen. Mark Warner (R-Va.) sees an opportunity to make his case. He tells Right Turn, “Mark Warner and Harry Reid’s war on work most hurts those on or trying to grab hold of the first rung of the economic ladder, whether it’s 2.5 million fewer people working full time because of Obamacare, or 500,000 fewer jobs from a minimum wage increase.” In what sounds like an applause line for working and middle class audiences he sums up, ” The causes of Hollywood celebrities and Silicon Valley Billionaires aren’t making life better for thousands of Virginians struggling in the Obama-Warner economy.”
Government is not the only cause of inequality — not by a long shot. But bad government policy can make things worse. At the very least, we shouldn’t be catering to the whims of Hollywood donors at the expense of working-class Americans everywhere else. Beyond that, we should be redoing our tax code to encourage capital to come to the United States, expanding domestic energy production, strengthening the safety net for those who need it the most and knocking down barriers to better schools for inner-city kids trapped in bad ones. Lee observes that simply identifying Democratic hypocrisy isn’t enough: “That unequal opportunity gap is precisely the vulnerability that a modernized Republican Party of the middle class — united around a new conservative reform agenda — could finally expose. It is in that gap that a new populist, conservative Republican majority can be forged.”