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The 'Inequality' Game

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Bull corn, Sen. Schumer.

(That's the way we used to talk back in simpler times, when language and political thought still awaited the debasement they've come to know in latter times.)

New York's senior senator, Charles Schumer, contends that "a major shift in public opinion" has placed "jobs and income inequality" atop the list of political issues for 2012.

Wait. Permit me to back up. He's right about "jobs." "Income inequality" -- that's the particular assertion that's odor appears to rise from the state fair livestock shed. If Democrats want, and maybe they do, to run a national campaign advocating the equalization of economic outcomes, they are welcome to the political ruin they would invite. Economic demagoguery is nothing new to America ("There's nothing surer, the rich get rich, and the poor get poorer."), but it rarely pays off the way the demagogues imagine. In economic times, even rougher than the present ones, Huey Long's and Father Charles Coughlin's gospel of eviscerate-the-bankers came to naught.

The Occupy movement, as many Democratic strategists view it, possibly out of desperation, with no other issue available to them, signals mainstream America's disgust with big money and its desire for a cut of same. That would contradict the basic American understanding -- leave aside tantalizingly worded poll questions -- that taking other people's money solves nothing in the long run.

The Democrats' newfound fascination with the economic geniuses of the streets, plazas and public parks has to do with the desire to caricature Republicans as "the 1 percent" with the money vs. the 99 percent without. Schumer seems to suppose all he has to do is deploy words like "inequality" and the game is over.

What Americans know better than their self-anointed prophets is that "inequality" is a more meaningless phrase than "diet." No two people anywhere have exactly the same resources, far less the same brains and abilities, the same outlooks on life, the same chances and/or the same hindrances.

"Equality" -- find it if you can. There's no such beast. Schumer, a major league harvester of Wall Street campaign funds, knows better than to call for evening-out income levels through government action. Notwithstanding that the presumptive remedy for "inequality" is "equality."

We have to assume, in this event, that a public figure without a plan for redistributing the country's resources isn't truly concerned with gaps in income. He is concerned with getting voters to use their imaginations -- to see such gaps not as the result of effort, circumstance, vision and plain old luck, but rather as the result of manipulation.

A manipulator, by this logic, is an evil person. Let's tar and feather him or her at the very least. Let's put the government up to raising their taxes and narrowing their opportunities for -- always, apparently, a questionable goal -- profiting from investments and labor.

Does that take care of "inequality"? Of course not. Strip "the 1 percent" of half their possessions, and it still isn't enough. They continue to enjoy more than you and I. The way to abolish inequality is to reduce Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to the status of grocery clerks.

Except that Sen. Schumer has no such notion. Nor have rational Americans of any political party or none. Candidate Obama may have told Joe the plumber it would be nice to "spread the wealth around," but that was for aural effect. The phrase fell nicely on Obama's ear, as on -- he certainly hoped - it would many other ears.

Candidate Obama knew good and well he wasn't running on a platform to guillotine the rich and install the peasants in their chateaux. Inequality was then, and remains so, a bogey for scaring voters, few of whom want actually to round up Justin Bieber and Tiger Woods -- or even, for that matter, Brothers Buffett and Gates -- and work them over for the high crime of success.

The Schumer-Democratic gambit -- castigate inequality without promising some new age of perfect equality -- is thoroughly dishonest. Which is to say, it's thoroughly modern and thoroughly predictable.

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