The battle of wealth inequality (again)

If you thought 2014 might be the year of actual hope and change, you are in for a boatload of disappointment. Election years rarely mean major reforms in Washington. Politicians hunker down and don’t try and rock the boat.

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Democrats have come out of the gate with a predictable game plan for 2014: beat the drum of war against income inequality and poke the hornet’s nest of wealth envy.

This tiresome campaign is far from original but is certainly effective. The convergence of low information Americans and a weak jobs market is the perfect cocktail recipe for a sour public searching for a scapegoat. Democrats know this and they are ready to serve up the Republicans on a platter of rich cold heartedness.

Democrat solutions to wealth inequality include extending jobless benefits and increasing the minimum wage. Focusing on these policies is like treating a wart on a severed finger – there are bigger issues at hand.

There will always be people at the top, people at the bottom and some in-between. Those levels are fluid with people rising and falling throughout lifetimes.

According to the Heritage Foundation, 93 percent of Americans raised in the bottom quintile will go on to exceed their parents’ family income. Before the recession, 60 percent of taxpayers moved up from the bottom quintile between 1999 and 2007, according to the Tax Foundation. Forty percent of those at the top fell to a lower quintile within the same period.

If the concept of having people at the bottom and the top bothers you, move to Cuba where such mobility is nonexistent.

While the rich may get richer, liberals will have you believe that this is at the expense of the poor; money was “taken” from the poor and redistributed to the rich who then hoard it for themselves and deprive fellow Americans of resources.

That’s an unfortunate way to view the world and completely disregards our greatest asset of economic growth.  The pie isn’t static, we just need to grow a bigger pie.

Easier said than done when you have a government that is too big, too meddlesome and too inconsistent. American businesses spend almost $2 trillion a year complying with government regulations.

Those who can afford compliance costs are the big fish in the pond, pushing smaller competitors out, which means fewer employed Americans.

Businesses are also more likely to sit on their earnings when Washington is an inconsistent basket case. That’s not good for workers either.

Increasing the income tax isn’t going to do it either. Our income tax code is nearly twice as progressive today as it was in 1979, according to the Tax Foundation, and yet the poverty rate is virtually unchanged and more people than ever collect welfare.

It’s infuriating to the core that the government has become an instrument of redistributive plunder, plucked by politicians who need to score votes. Government is not the solution to economic inequality; the opportunity to move freely among a capitalist system is the solution.

Yet that is the battle that the Democrats will wage in 2014. They at least have a battle plan; the same can’t be said for the Republicans, who will be forced to play the Democrats’ game, automatically putting them at a disadvantage.

Republicans are damned fools if they are caught flat-footed on this issue. They need to find a way to seize it, redefine it and use it to their advantage.

There are two policies that would easily allow the Republicans to achieve this goal: energy and education.

The remarkable stories of sub-3 percent unemployment in energy-rich places like North Dakota should serve as inspiration for millions of Americans who have lost hope. Debates over a federal minimum wage seem laughable when market demands create the opportunity for $17 Wal-Mart wages in these places.

School choice, vouchers and local autonomy would empower millions of parents seeking opportunities for their children. After all, you cannot talk about economic inequality without talking about education.

While the economic case can be made for the repeal of ObamaCare, the GOP must be careful not to let itself be defined by this issue.  While excellent replacement plans exist, that’s not even half the battle. Only 45 percent of Americans know what “G.O.P.” stands for, let alone possess intimate knowledge of any GOP healthcare plan.

The GOP’s problem is about perception as much as it is about unity. Those who are “penetrating” the average public aren’t the establishment but younger members like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. There’s a reason for that. The rest of the GOP could stand to reflect on exactly why this is the case, if they want any chance of winning the Senate in November.

What do you think?

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