Why “Income Inequality” is a Losing Issue and How to Fix It
With Occupy Wall Street sputtering during its spring reboot, it looks like the movement that dominated last year’s political discussion may not repeat. That’s not entirely unexpected. OWS promoted two concepts, one that resonated with Americans and one that didn’t.
The first was that governing for the “one percent” – coddling and pampering those moody rich folks – is contrary to American interests. “The 99 percent” resonated with Americans for its simple reasonableness and because two Bush terms of (take your pick) supply-side, trickle-down or tinkle-on economics had essentially destroyed our economy. It further fit because Wall Street got a bailout but “Main Street” didn’t. It drew bright lines.
The second concept, “Income Inequality,” generated considerable press but never really caught on. That’s no surprise either. It’s a statistical term that migrated to popular use. No one checked to see if people would actually hear what was being said. People didn’t, and the enemies of OWS were able to reposition the idea as socialist-style redistribution of wealth (which it wasn’t.)
Still, Americans aren’t really for income equality – never have been. Our entire viewpoint is based on the idea that anyone can be rich if he works extra hard. What Americans do believe in – almost universally – is equality of opportunity. Anyone can… is rooted in the idea that everyone could.
Unfortunately, Opportunity Equality is still entirely aspirational. A Princeton Research Study finds more than half of those under 30 believe they will be rich. By the time they reach 50, barely one in five still imagine it. Only a small few actually will. Reality intrudes.Continued on the next page