If President Barack Obama has entertained an economic insight that wasn't fashionable in 1933, I haven't heard about it. It's doubtless he's for recycling glass and plastic, but he's even more wedded to recycling ideas that were fresh and interesting during the New Deal era but have since been discredited.
All of this was clear when he became the Democratic Party's pinup in 2008 (just by way of example, I wrote then that while Obama was "shiny, bright and new," his ideas were "suffering from senility"). What's dumbfounding now is Obama's detachment from his own presidency. He continues to campaign (well, speak, but it always sounds like a stump speech) as if someone else were sitting in the Oval Office, as if someone else's policies were responsible for the state of things and as if someone else should shoulder the blame.
This week, the president delivered a lengthy (his admirers would say "important") speech about income inequality -- the "defining challenge of our time," he declared. The speech was a kite string of flapping factoids -- many of them untrue, such as the hoary nonsense about women earning only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men -- held aloft by an attitude of resentment. Obama excels at striking poses. The man has been president of the United States for five years. His policies were enacted by a Democratic congress in 2009 and 2010. Yet he continues to act as if getting the sensibility right is the key thing. Obama is all pose and no posse.
The gap between the rich and poor is nothing to celebrate, but it pales in comparison with the prolonged economic doldrums of the Obama years. Tellingly, the president doesn't acknowledge that income inequality has actually increased on his watch. That's right, it's more pronounced than under George W. Bush. Too much can be made of these income inequality data (most come from Emmanuel Saez) -- there's so much they omit, like government transfers. But the problem of stagnating wages for middle class earners is real, and serious people have contemplated how to combat this through growth-generating government policies. Among the most promising are tax simplification, domestic energy development and regulatory relief. Obama doesn't even consider those.