It looks like somebody got the word: Income inequality is out, "ladders of opportunity" is in

It looks like somebody got the word: Income inequality is out, "ladders of opportunity" is in

by digby

Perhaps you were unaware that discussions of income inequality is just like Hitler, but it is. At least according to this man who is worth at least 8 billion dollars. From the Wall Street Journal letters section under the headline: “Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?”
Regarding your editorial "Censors on Campus" (Jan. 18): Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."

From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these "techno geeks" can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a "snob" despite the millions she has spent on our city's homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.

This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now?

Tom Perkins

San Francisco

Mr. Perkins is a founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Because there's very little difference between raising taxes and sending someone to Auchwitz. It might even be worse. You know how much harder it is for rich people to be forced to give up even the tiniest bit of money than any kind of tragedy is for the rest of us. They're sensitive.

(Quite honestly, I think the most shocking part of that letter is the assertion that Danielle Steele is San Francisco's number one celebrity. The place really has gone downhill since I lived there. Sheesh, you'd think he'd at least claim Clint Eastwood. He hates taxes too.)

But it looks as though Mr Perkins can relax. The big shot Democrats have this well in hand:
Income inequality is out, "ladders of opportunity" is in.

Eager to dispel claims that President Barack Obama is engaging in "class warfare" as he heads into his State of the Union address next week, the White House is de-emphasizing phrases focusing on economic disparity and turning instead to messages about creating paths of opportunity for the poor and middle class.

The adjustment reflects an awareness that Obama's earlier language put him at risk of being perceived as divisive and exposed him to criticism that his rhetoric was exploiting the gap between haves and have-nots.

On Dec. 4 Obama delivered a sweeping economic address where he declared that "increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country, and it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people." He used the word "inequality" 26 times in his speech that day.

A month later the word has all but disappeared at the White House. In his most recent remarks about his economic agenda, the president made no mention of chasms between rich and poor. Rather, he stressed policies that help move low income people into the middle class.
Golly, I wonder what made them change? Whatever it was, it seems to be a bipartisan shift:
"What you want to do is focus on the aspirational side of this, lifting people up, not on just complaining about a lack of fairness or inequality," said Paul Begala, a former top adviser to President Bill Clinton who consults with White House officials. "Watch the State of the Union, I'd be surprised if he uses phrases like inequality, which suggests a leveling down. If you talk about the middle class, it suggests a lifting up."

Obama's December speech was well received by Democrats and liberals, but conservatives jumped on it, arguing that Obama was laying a foundation for economic redistribution.

"I think the administration is playing with dynamite," Karl Rove, the former adviser to President George W. Bush, said earlier this month on Fox News. "The more this becomes a question of taking from those who have to those that don't have, the more they engage the American people in a very negative way for the administration."

And the last thing you want to do is have the president lose his credibility with conservatives. Why, they might stop meeting him half way.
A new poll by the Pew Research Center and USA Today illustrates Obama's message challenge. The poll found that nearly two out of three surveyed believe that the gap between the rich and everyone else has grown in the last 10 years, a view held by majorities across political party lines. But the poll found that Democrats and Republicans disagreed sharply on whether the government should intervene to close the gap. Among Democrats 90 percent said government should act whereas only 45 percent of Republicans said the same thing.
There you go. Democrats and Republicans disagree. So the the only logical for this administration to do is to back away sharply from the position favored by its supporters. How embarrassing that result must have been for them.
"Anytime a Democrat mentions inequality, suddenly they're a raging populist," said Jon Favreau, Obama's top speech writer until he left the White House a year ago. "What's he's talking about he's been talking about since 2004, 2005."

"Any capitalist country has inequality and that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing," Favreau said. "What most concerned him is mobility."
It's actually getting quite boring tracking the administration feints and retreats on these issues. The president clearly would like to be able to say some populist stuff that his supporters want to hear. But the Big Money Boyz are very sensitive about this and he's not going to cross them. Make no mistake, there are no policy proposals coming from anyone of either party that would seriously erode this wealth inequality. That's simply out of the question. What has everyone so agitated is populist rhetoric, which these narcissists see as akin to being a powerless minority attacked by the state. And that means the president and his men have to fall back on "meritocracy" and mobility tropes that ensure these narcissists will remain on top. That's where the money is.

As Chris Hayes explained in his book, "Twilight of the Elites":
The Iron Law of Meritocracy states that eventually the inequality produced by a meritocratic system will grow large enough to subvert the mechanisms of mobility. Unequal outcomes make equal opportunity impossible. The Principle of Difference will come to overwhelm the Principle of Mobility. Those who are able to climb up the ladder will find ways to pull it up after them, or to selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies and kin to scramble up. In other words: “Who says meritocracy says oligarchy.”
Meanwhile, in other oligarch news, I'm sure you've all heard by now that Jamie Dimon got a great big pay raise after a year in which his company agreed to pay out a 13 billion dollar settlement for its illegal mortgage schemes.

I think Senator Elizabeth Warren asks the right question:
If JPMorgan is so happy with their settlements that they are rewarding their CEO with a big raise, do you really think the federal bank regulators were tough enough?
No. But it's far more important that we don't make Jamie Dimon feel bad about anything. That's just as wrong as Pol Pot killing all the doctors and teachers. You can look it up.