Discover more from Bernard Goldberg's Commentary
Pay Attention Republicans -- Especially You, Mr. Trump
You have to give Hillary Clinton credit, if for nothing more than having a great deal of chutzpah. Here she is making income inequality a big part of her run for the White House despite the fact that she could be the poster girl for income inequality in America.
This is the same Hillary Clinton who has made $200,000 for a single speech and whose net worth, along with husband Bill, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000,000.
And the best part is that she condemns income inequality while maintaining a straight face. As her feminist pals might say, You go girl!
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that, “Hillary Clinton used the first public rally of her presidential campaign to align herself with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, saying she wanted to ease income inequality and would push for expanded paid family leave, universal preschool and other liberal priorities.”
Other liberal priorities like raising the minimum wage and re-writing tax laws to make sure the wealthiest Americans pay – what liberals like to call – their fair share, and generally playing Robin Hood by taking money from the rich and passing it around to everyone else -- in exchange for their votes.
If you’re a liberal Democrat – excuse the redundancy there – you’ll never get in trouble for pushing income inequality or bashing the rich – even when those fat cats on Wall Street are helping finance your campaign.
But there’s one facet of income inequality Mrs. Clinton – and every other politician, liberal or conservative -- won’t touch with the proverbial ten-foot pole. And it’s about why some poor people are poor.
A year ago I wrote about a study conducted by two scholars from the University of Arkansas – Robert Maranto and Michael Crouch – who have looked into the reasons for income inequality. Here’s some of what they wrote in an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal:
“Suppose a scientific conference on cancer prevention never addressed smoking, on grounds that in a free society you can’t change private behavior, and anyway, maybe the statistical relationships between smoking and cancer are really caused by some other third variable. Wouldn’t some suspect that the scientists who raised these claims were driven by something – ideology, tobacco money – other than science?
“Yet in the current discussion about increased inequality, few researchers, fewer reporters, and no one in the executive branch of government directly addresses what seems to be the strongest statistical correlate of inequality in the United States: the rise of single-parent families during the past half century.”
In other words, having babies out of wedlock is often what makes people poor – and contributes to the income inequality that Mrs. Clinton and others supposedly care so much about.
The problem for liberals, of course, is their inability to hold the poor accountable for dysfunctional behavior. Many poor people, of course, are hard working folks who simply lack the kind of skills that pay well. But others are poor because they’re girls who had a baby when they were 15 years old and never finished high school – and of course, never married the guys who got them pregnant.
But here’s an opening for Republicans. They could acknowledge income inequality is a problem, but then explain that it’s not because some hedge fund managers make a lot of money. It’s because, in too many cases, people make bad choices that make them wards of the welfare state and keeps them poor. A message like that would resonate with many moderate Americans, not only conservatives.
And then there's the media's reluctance to address the issue honestly.
“Mainstream news outlets tended to ignore the … message about family structure, focusing instead on variables with far less statistical impact, such as residential segregation,” the authors of the study write.
And, of course, there’s also the race factor. “Family breakup,” the scholars tell us, “has hit minority communities the hardest. So even bringing up the issue risks being charged with racism.”
So here’s my free advice for Republicans in general and one in particular – Mr. Donald Trump. Instead of being both provocative and inane. Donald, by making ridiculous generalizations about Mexican illegal immigrants, and instead of taking cheap shots at John McCain, why not be provocative and smart, for a change? Why not say, “I’m also concerned about income inequality. I want poor people to do better, to live good, happy lives. But I’m not going to pretend some people are poor because guys like me are rich. Some people are poor because they have made really bad decisions and we need to point that out – or we’ll never making progress on this issue.”
I concluded my column a year ago by writing that, “I get the impression that America is in the mood for a politician who isn’t afraid; one who isn’t constantly taking polls to find out what to say; one who talks about personal responsibility and makes no apologies for it. And if along the way that politician is called a racist, so what? I get the impression the American people are tired of that kind of nonsense too.”
Republicans, are you listening? Mr. Trump, are you listening?