President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address offered a grab bag of specifically vague ideas and predictable plaudits but the common thread woven through his remarks was that of inequality. Between his arguments surrounding entry level wages, real income and his plan to unilaterally raise the minimum wage in federal contracts without the involvement of Congress, the undercurrent of income inequality ebbed and flowed throughout his speech.
Income inequality is a surefire class warfare wedge issue, particularly for a Democratic Party heading into midterm elections with the albatross of Obamacare hanging heavily from their collective necks. In basic terms, income inequality is simple to define; some people make more money than others. The problem lies in how it is defined and in what context, and Obama is hard at work redefining this as a means to further advance a redistributionist agenda.
The president’s worldview assumes that those making more money than others have done so at the expense of others, making it an attractive vehicle for his continued efforts toward the redistribution of wealth. It is also the height of political cynicism and attacks the American free-market system, which has resulted in the most egalitarian and prosperous social system in human history.
Obama’s notion of income inequality fails on every level. American equality has always been defined as equality of opportunity, not outcome. We are not equal in our capabilities and talents, but by right are equal in our opportunity to pursue whatever suits our talents. No less important, this phony issue ignores the actual instances of inequality that plague America today.
There is inequality with which the Obama administration treats citizens with whom it disagrees, as evidenced by the abuses of the IRS to intimidate tea party groups seeking nonprofit status. We see inequality in who is and is not subject to Obamacare; members of Congress are allowed much more favorable treatment than those they govern and corporations receive waivers to the corporate mandate while millions of families receive no such special treatment. The tax code is such that preferential treatment is for sale to those with the means to buy it and rampant cronyism has made a mockery of equal competition.
Most unsettling is the inequality of the president’s habit of disregarding the separation of powers delineated in the Constitution with the administration issuing suspect executive decrees and unilaterally rewriting laws involving Obamacare, immigration and more. Rather than three co-equal branches of government, we now have a president who routinely ignores the 535 elected members of Congress, reducing the citizens they represent to mere subjects.
In his first State of the Union speech on Jan. 8, 1790, George Washington concluded his remarks saying, “The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you in the pleasing, though arduous task of insuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient and equal government.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.