Appearing on Face the Nation, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan became the latest media conservative to claim that President Obama and congressional Democrats are attempting to distract attention from problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act by addressing income inequality and pushing for an increase in the minimum wage, echoing several attacks from Fox News.
Noonan responded to host Bob Schieffer's question about why Democrats were focusing on income inequality and increasing the minimum wage by claiming that they “need to change the subject” away from Obamacare:
NOONAN: [Obama] does not want to talk about Obamacare. It is widely assumed that in 2014 the bad news of Obamacare, the dislocations, the lost coverage, the price hikes, the premium hikes, et cetera, et cetera, that all of this will continue. It's not the website. The website is the old story. It is the program. It will unveil over the next two years and it's going to be problematic. The president does not want to talk about it. The Democrats do not want to talk about it. Therefore, income equality, minimum wage, et cetera, et cetera. They need to change the subject.
Noonan's claim echoes those of Fox News personalities, who have repeatedly characterized a wide swath of issues -- including immigration reform, international diplomacy, and judicial nominations -- tackled by the administration as attempts to change the subject from the health care law.
Contrary to Noonan's dismissal of the importance of it, economists have cited income inequality as a top issue facing the United States and have said that it has hindered a more robust economic recovery from the recession.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, an advocate for reducing income inequality, has proposed numerous possible solutions such as increased wages, bigger tax credits for low-income workers, and increased unionization rates. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote nearly a year ago that the lack of wealth in the middle class has hurt the consumer spending that drives economic growth, hindered individuals' investments in their future, contributed to a decline in tax receipts, and increased the frequency and severity of boom and bust cycles. He further explained why inequality is an urgent problem that requires a solution:
Politicians typically talk about rising inequality and the sluggish recovery as separate phenomena, when they are in fact intertwined. Inequality stifles, restrains and holds back our growth. When even the free-market-oriented magazine The Economist argues -- as it did in a special feature in October -- that the magnitude and nature of the country's inequality represent a serious threat to America, we should know that something has gone horribly wrong. And yet, after four decades of widening inequality and the greatest economic downturn since the Depression, we haven't done anything about it.