Chait’s piece is a typical “pyromaniac in a field of straw men” attack on Republicans, and is rather unremarkable except for his choice to deliberately associate the specter of Holocaust denial with those who fail to toe the liberal line on class warfare and income redistribution. James Pethokoukis responds to Chait’s article by citing a few “inconvenient” facts that Chait and his ideological confreres routinely ignore:
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.
Chait and others in the class warfare crowd have been stirred up by this recently published CBO analysis of incomes, which seems to show that the incomes of the top 1% rose disproportionately during the last 30 years, while the real incomes of the bottom fifth declined during the same period. But much of the exponential growth in the income of top earners over the last 30 years has been directly tied to the incredible performance of the stock market, which increased nearly ten-fold in the decade between 1992 and 2001 alone. And that increase was directly tied to the massive economic growth of 1982 – 1987, 1997 – 2001, and 2003 – 2007 along with the corresponding increases in government tax receipts that led to the near-elimination of the Federal budget deficit in FY 2000. These things helped Americans at all economic levels.
Naturally those in the financial sector (which makes up a significant portion of our top income earners) benefitted handsomely during those decades. Unfortunately for the class warfare crowd, intellectuals have yet to devise a way to continually maintain a strong economy by demanding year after year of exceptional performances from the financial sector (and its main source of capital creation, well-managed and profitable businesses) while at the same time vilifying and punishing businessmen and investors for “unfairly” earning “too much money.”
“Income inequality” is a complex subject, made even more difficult by the fact that there are few standard definitions or methods of analysis upon which all parties agree. The result of this is that much of the rhetoric employed by both sides ends up consisting largely of terminology and slogans that are, in truth, little more than empty signifiers — meaningful and emotive when you are preaching to the choir; vague, confusing, or misleading when directed toward the other side’s arguments.
And when you deliberately invoke Holocaust/Nazi imagery while attacking the other side’s arguments, you’re not even trying to have an actual discussion of the issue. In fact, according to the first corollary of Godwin’s Law, you’ve automatically lost the debate. But unlike Darwin Award winners, those who violate Godwin’s Law have the opportunity to be stupid and offensive over and over again.