Mona Charen

Only 28 percent of respondents to a recent Harris Poll say they plan to watch the State of the Union address. Some of those are lying. It's clear the Obama charm has worn extremely thin.

The rapturous excitement President Barack Obama once elicited was based, at least in part, on the idea that he had something new to offer, that he transcended the "old politics." It's not enough to say that those expectations were misplaced -- that was obvious from the beginning. But he has proved to be one of the most polarizing leaders of the modern era, encouraging a corrosive sense of grievance between Americans and undermining people's faith in the essential justness of their country.

Tonight, we are told, the president will once again mount his horse and fix his lance at the scourge of "income inequality" and declining upward mobility in an attempt to convince voters struggling with the Obama economy that the wealthy are to blame for their problems. It's the leftist mantra, and Obama never tires of it. He hasn't read Adam Smith. He doesn't know that one man's prosperity is not the cause of another man's poverty.

It's awkward for Obama, so he probably won't mention it, but income inequality has increased since he assumed office. And while he's waxing indignant about declining upward mobility, he probably won't acknowledge that thanks to the strength of the U.S. economy before he got his hands on it, economic mobility has improved in recent decades as incomes have risen. Median family income (adjusted for inflation) is 12 percent higher today than it was in 1980. People have more disposable income than their parents did at the same stage of life.

Though he has referred approvingly to the work of Emmanuel Saez in the past, the president will probably avoid the economist's most recent study, "Where is the Land of Opportunity?" because Saez concludes that the chief obstacle to upward mobility is not the "one percent" but family structure. Even children in intact families suffer when they grow up in communities with large percentages of single-parent families.

Responding clumsily to the problem of joblessness -- which has assumed nearly European levels under his leadership -- Obama will reach into his 1930s kit bag and propose an increase in the federal minimum wage. Sigh. Most economists agree that increasing the minimum wage has a tendency to discourage hiring. Second, most people who earn minimum wage are not heads of households. Third, 80 percent are not poor. Fourth, most receive a raise within 12 months. Fifth, the states containing half the population already have minimum wages above the federal level.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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