It’s Not about Poverty

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

Katie Couric and the New Populism

With all the talk of corporate greed and inequality, did people like Katie Couric think that in tough times they were immune from the laws of populist outrage? Did Couric believe that, amid significant layoffs at CBS, she could still garner pay worth 200 salaries of $75,000 in the new age of egalitarianism? What’s next? When movies bomb, will actors’ pay be presented in terms of how many cameramen could have been hired with their payouts?

What’s interesting is that Obama’s egalitarian “J’accuse!” movement was largely supported by those who — logically, at least — were precisely the individuals Obama was railing against: people earning more than $200,000 a year who make x-times more than their lowly coworkers.

So, given the new mood of the country and the new tax codes on the horizon, can we expect law professors, actors, media celebs, and others gladly to pay 65 percent of their ill-gotten gains in state taxes, federal income taxes, new payroll taxes, and healthcare taxes? And can we start asking the tough questions? For example: Why do endowed professors teach fewer classroom hours than part-timers who make one-fifth their wages?

Somehow, Obamaism convinced many that they were avatars of needed change, unlike the greedy “them,” and thus were exempt from the logical consequences of their own rhetoric. The problem, however, is that Obama’s most influential base of support is “them.” This could catch on. Imagine the possibilities: John Edwards sells his “two Americas” mansion. Al Gore gives his energy-guzzling estate over to poor environmental activists. Warren Buffet forsakes the esoteric deductions that gave him an 18 percent income-tax rate and happily starts paying 60 percent of his income as his “fair share.” Bill and Melinda Gates hold back $20 billion or so from the foundation and give it to a broke treasury desperately in need of estate-tax revenue.

Confessions of Another Middle-Class Terrorist

In the post–Major Hasan/Abdulmutallab era, we don’t often hear the once-popular canard that poverty, oppression, and genuine grievances drive victimized Muslims — especially in the West — into the ranks of radical Islamic terrorism.

But the latest yuppie terrorist — Omar Hammami, the Alabaman who went to Somalia to kill non-believers and rant about the evil America that nourished him — is more candid than most. In a recent New York Times Magazinepiece, Hammami is quoted as rejecting the claim that socioeconomic factors drove his own murderous extremism: “They can’t blame it on poverty or any of that stuff. They will have to realize that it’s an ideology and it’s a way of life that make people change. They will also have to realize that their political agendas need to be fixed.”

A Dream Fulfilled?

When Obama gives the usual review of all the programs, stimulus efforts, and new entitlements he’s overseeing, almost no one seems to conclude that he is simply detailing how he is going to redistribute nearly $2 trillion a year in annual borrowing. When we cut through all the soaring Great Society rhetoric, we are left with a “Gorge the Beast” strategy in which money is borrowed and given to favored constituencies before being paid back by less popular groups through higher taxes.

Given the aggregate $7-10 trillion in additional debt envisioned over the next four years, Obama may well become the greatest redistributor in U.S. history, at last addressing his 2001 lamentation about the absence of meaningful “redistributive change” in America. The only question at this point is whether Obama’s gargantuan deficits are aimed primarily at lavishing constituencies with cash, or rather at making it necessary to raise taxes in a way that serves to reduce income inequality.

©2010 Victor Davis Hanson

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