The "War On Wealth": Right-Wing Media Defend The Wealthy From Efforts To Reduce Inequality

››› ››› ALBERT KLEINE

Right-wing media figures are baselessly stoking fears about calls to reduce inequality and expand opportunity to low-income Americans, claiming that these efforts are evidence of persecution of the rich and class warfare.

President Obama Shifts Focus To Reducing Inequality

Wash. Post: Obama Focuses Agenda On Inequality. A December 4, 2013, article in The Washington Post explained that Obama was shifting his policy agenda for his presidency, "looking past the Republican opposition that has long blocked his goals and toward policies to narrow inequality and promote opportunity for the poor." [The Washington Post, 12/4/13]

Right-Wing Media React By Claiming The Rich Are Being Bullied

WSJ: Obama Believes The Rich "Deserve To Be Punished." After venture capitalist Tom Perkins likened the "progressive war on the American one percent" to Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht, The Wall Street Journal editorial board claimed that Perkins, while using "unfortunate" rhetoric, was still correct about an alleged hatred of the rich:

Like Mr. [New York City Mayor Bill] de Blasio, Mr. Obama doesn't merely want to raise taxes on the rich to finance the government. He says "millionaires and billionaires" simply make too much money and deserve to be punished. Or as they say at the New York Times, they are "the undeserving rich." By the way, does that include the third-generation rentiers in the Sulzberger family?

The liberals aren't encouraging violence, but they are promoting personal vilification and the abuse of government power to punish political opponents. [The Wall Street Journal, 1/29/14]

Michelle Malkin: Reducing Inequality Is A "War On Wealth." In a January 29 National Review Online column, conservative commentator Michelle Malkin defended billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins' Nazi comparison, and claimed that efforts to reduce income inequality were proof of a "bullying epidemic" towards the rich:

Perkins also chastised those who bemoan "income inequality," including his erstwhile "friends" Al Gore, Jerry Brown, and Barack Obama: "The 1 percent are not causing the inequality. They are the job creators. . . . I think Kleiner Perkins itself over the years has created pretty close to a million jobs, and we're still doing it. It's absurd to demonize the rich for being rich and for doing what the rich do, which is get richer by creating opportunity for others."

Amen, amen, and amen. Perkins barely scratched the surface of the War on Wealth that has spread under the Obama regime.

[...]

The deadliest threats come from the men in power in Washington who stoke bottomless hatred against "millionaires and billionaires" through class-bashing rhetoric and entrepreneur-crushing policies -- while they pocket the hard-earned money of the achievers trying to buy immunity. It's high time to shame the wealth-shamers and their cowed enablers. Silence is complicity. [National Review Online, 1/29/14]

Fox Business' Charles Payne: The Wealthy Who Fear Persecution Have "Justified Rage." Fox Business' Charles Payne claimed that critics of the idea that the wealthy are being persecuted are misguided, and that the rich have "justified rage" in their fear of being singled out in public by reformers who want to address income inequality. [Fox Business, Varney & Company, 1/28/14, via Media Matters]

Fortune's Nina Easton: Reducing Inequality Is "Going After Achievers." Previewing the president's State of the Union speech on the January 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fortune editor Nina Easton claimed that the focus on reducing inequality was misguided, amounting to little more than "going after achievers." [Fox News, Special Report, 1/28/14, via Media Matters]

Rush Limbaugh: Obama Is Trying To "Stigmatize The Rich." On the January 27 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh lambasted the president's focus on reducing inequality, claiming that the driving purpose behind trying to close the gap between high- and low-income earners was to "stigmatize the rich." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/27/13, via Media Matters]

But Reducing Inequality Helps Everyone By Growing The Economy

Robert Reich: "Inequality Is Bad For Everyone." In an interview with PBS' Newshour, economist Robert Reich discussed his documentary Inequality for All and the impact of economic inequality on the health of the economy:

REICH: The argument is that inequality is bad for everyone, not just the middle class and the poor; 95 percent of the gains, the economic gains, since the recovery began in 2009 are going to the top 1 percent.

Meanwhile, median household income keeps dropping, adjusted for inflation. Well, where are people going to get the money they need to keep the economy going? [PBS, Newshour, 10/11/13]

CAP: Inequality Holds Back Economic Growth. According to a December 4 statement by the Center for American Progress, high levels of economic inequality "may actually hold back our economy." Citing three related papers on the effect of public policy on economic growth, income distribution, and poverty, the statement concludes that growing inequality is not a side effect of economic growth, but a symptom of failed trickle-down theories:

Americans have seen income inequality rise over the past few decades, yet contrary to long-held trickle-down beliefs that rising inequality is not broadly benefiting society by bringing with it stronger economic growth. The research presented here demonstrates that inequality is not necessary for sustained economic growth and that inequality may actually dampen growth. This flies in the face of a core tenet of trickle-down theory, which erroneously vouches for the necessity of extreme inequality to generate growth. [Center for American Progress, 12/4/13]

And Rising Inequality Has Increased Poverty

EPI: Inequality Is The Reason Why Poverty Has Not Been Eliminated. In a January 15 post on the Economic Policy Institute's Working Economics blog, economist Elise Gould argued that poverty would be far lower today "if economic growth were more broadly shared." By her calculations, the official poverty rate could have been reduced to zero in the mid-1990s "had economic growth been as broadly shared as it had been in the years leading up to the late 1970s." [Economic Policy Institute, 1/15/14]

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