Liberals think there are lots of ideas that intelligent Americans just aren’t supposed to challenge. If they do, they’ll be labeled “deniers,” intentionally raising a nasty comparison to Holocaust rejectionists. It’s politics at its absolute lowest.
Among the unchallengeable dogmata: the Obama stimulus created millions of jobs, Obamacare will save trillions of dollars, Dodd-Frank prevents future bank bailouts, and policy uncertainty isn’t an issue hampering the recovery. And, of course, global warming poses an existential threat to civilization and humanity. Make that an “undeniable” threat.
You can now add “income inequality” to the list, thanks to New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait. In a column headlined “The Ideological Fantasies of Inequality Deniers,” Chait writes: “Rising income inequality, like climate change, is an ideologically inconvenient issue for conservatives. … The underlying facts, like the facts of climate change, are stark. Over the last few decades, income growth for most Americans has slowed to a crawl, while income for the very rich has exploded.”
In a way, Chait is correct that income inequality really resembled global warming. Both are issues that, to the extent they are even problems, could be be fixed though faster economic growth. And both serve as handy excuses for the Left to raise taxes and expand government.
The reality about “exploding income inequality” and wage stagnation is far different than what Chait, the Obama White House, and Elizabeth Warren (D-Occupy Wall Street) contend. One example: Brand new research from the University of Chicago’s Bruce Meyer and Notre Dame’s James Sullivan finds “median income and consumption both rose by more than 50 percent in real terms between 1980 and 2009. … Our results provide strong evidence that the well-being of the middle class and the poor has improved considerably over the past thirty years.”
Those results aren’t above challenge. But there certainly seems to be legitimate counter-arguments and evidence to the “exploding income inequality” meme. Indeed, differing household demographics and differing inflation measures between incomes levels means the “rise in American inequality has been exaggerated both in magnitude and timing,” according to Northwestern University’s Robert Gordon. That and other studies undercut a new CBO analysis showing massive income gains for the “1 percent” at the expense of everyone else. But maybe Gordon is a denier, too; another guy on the Koch-RNC payroll. Except Gordon is an Obama supporter.
America needs an informed debate on how the American middle class can prosper in the future the way it has in the past—even if it is ideologically inconvenient for Chait and other liberals.