Like a lot of other people, President Barack Obama has a New Year’s resolution.
This week Obama pledge to return his focus to the subject of “income inequality.”
According to a story in the Washington Post, the president was a bit short on specifics about how he might achieve his long-sought economic goals. Instead, the speech — coming at the end of a difficult and politically damaging year — was designed to help define a populist argument that he and other Democrats can carry into upcoming legislative battles and into next year’s midterm elections.”
While most everyone can agree that a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots presents serious problems for the country, the real battles will come as various factions argue about how to narrow the gap between the poor and rich. You can expect these battles to line up in perfect symmetry between the two major political parties.
This is the year that I will turn 50. This year is also the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of a “war on poverty.”
This is where it gets tricky for Democrats. Five years into Obama’s presidency, and 50 years after our nation declared a so-called war on poverty, there is ample evidence that the war is failing and President Obama’s economic recovery measures are falling short. The poor are still getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. This is why today’s political battles are about extending unemployment benefits, expanding Medicaid, etc.
An Inconvenient Truth
Republicans will have their own challenges in this debate.
They will be labeled, generalized and demonized as rich, fat cats. No one will talk about John Kerry, the Kennedys or the Roosevelt Family. We will ignore Nancy Pelosi’s wealth. This, as always, will be about politics . . . not about solutions. It will be about Republicans trying to beat Democrats by pointing to failures; and about Democrats blaming Republicans.
It’s just too easy for most Americans to get behind the Robin Hood concept of taking from the rich and giving to the poor without realizing that you are simply relocating wealth.
Since both parties have challenges in this mid-term election year, you can expect a lot of talk about the “top 1 percent.” But here is an inconvenient truth that I stumbled across on Twitter:
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the top 1% of wage earners make 14.9 percent of all pre-tax income in the United States, yet pay 24.2 percent of all federal taxes.This is a conversation we must have. We should focus on making poor people richer, not on making rich people poorer.
The best way to achieve that goal is to 1.) Focus on educating the nation’s workforce. 2.) Stabilize family units 3.) Drive down health care costs and stop focusing on expanding insurance (make health care more affordable, efficient)
Since U.S. poverty rates continue to climb, maybe it’s time to admit we’ve lost the war on poverty. Maybe we need a new strategy and a little less politicking. But don’t bank on it.
If you would like to read or download the CBO report, you can find it here