Word is that President Obama’s State of the Union speech will focus on inequality. This is no surprise, as the Democrats have concluded that inequality is the issue that gives them the best chance to distract from Obamacare’s failures and fire up their base. It also offers an implicit rejoinder to the fact that Obama has presided over a lousy economy for the last five years: sure the economy is bad, but the solution is to get your hands on someone else’s money.
“Inequality” is a highly elastic concept. No one seriously argues that everyone’s income or wealth should be the same, so each listener can ascribe his own meaning to the term. And polls suggest that most Americans agree that, in some fashion, “inequality” is a legitimate issue. The Democrats’ problem is that they haven’t convinced voters that the solution to the problem of inequality, however defined, is more government. Today’s Rasmussen Reports includes these very interesting data:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 69% of Likely U.S. Voters consider income inequality at least a somewhat serious problem in the United States today. …
But when asked which would do more to close the income gap in America, 59% choose less government involvement in the economy over more government action. Thirty-three percent (33%) think increased government involvement in the economy would do more to close the income gap.
A plurality (48%) says society overall would be less fair if the government got more involved in regulating the economy. Twenty-nine percent (29%) think increased government involvement would ensure that society is more fair. Fifteen percent (15%) see no impact from more government involvement in the economy.
These findings suggest that most Americans have figured out that cronyism works for the well-connected, but not for the rest of us. The majority is absolutely correct in believing that the key to broader opportunity is a growing economy fueled by free enterprise, not a statist division of the wealth.
So President Obama has his work cut out for him. Orating about hardship, inequality and a lousy economy won’t be enough. He somehow needs to convince Americans not only that economic horizons have been narrowing on his watch, but that more and more government–the very path that we have been on for the last five years, and longer–can somehow be the cure rather than the disease. If the Rasmussen data are anywhere close to correct, he will be addressing a highly skeptical audience.