Preface by Washington’s Blog: Thomas Piketty – like Mr. Zuesse – calls for raising taxes on the wealthy as the way to address inequality. We are, frankly, agnostic about that proposition. What we do have an opinion on is that the many horrible government policies which create runaway inequality – including artificially propping up asset prices, bailouts for the big banks and giant companies, quantitative easing, money creation by the big banks, protection of white collar fraudsters, government-created monopolies, and encouragement of off-shoring of big companies – should be stopped.
Preface by Eric Zuesse: Our great host, hallowed be his wisdom, has informed me that he objects to the following, because “the way to reduce inequality is to stop QE and throwing money at Wall Street.” But, while I agree with him that that is an essential component, it’s not sufficient, in and of itself, to address that problem; and, in any case, his objection is simply irrelevant to this piece; so, I am posting it here anyway.
On July 4th, the Washington Post headlined, “With Democrats split on inequality issues, Obama shifts talk away from income gap,” and Zachary Goldfarb summed up by saying that “Obama’s public statements suggest he is skeptical that members of either party would embrace some of the policies aimed squarely at reducing income inequality, such as taxing wealthier Americans in order to give more benefits to poorer Americans.”
The reality, however, is exactly the opposite of what Obama is asserting. For example, on 23 January 2014, Pew’s people-press.org reported their poll finding that when asked “what would do more to reduce poverty?” 54% favored “Raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to expand programs for the poor,” which is the progressive position, and only 35% favored “Lowering taxes on the wealthy and corporations to encourage investment and economic growth,” which is the conservative position. In the partisan breakdown of those numbers there, Pew reported that among Democratic voters, 75% favored the progressive position on this matter, and only 17% favored the conservative position on it. This means that in Democratic Presidential primaries, a candidate like Elizabeth Warren, who favors and campaigns on the progressive position, will increase her support during her campaign if she runs on it, whereas a candidate like Hillary Clinton, who favors and campaigns on the conservative position, will lose her support during her campaign if she runs on it (instead of away from it). So: the progressive position is the winning position on this matter in Democratic primaries. As for the general election, that overall finding of 54% versus 35% would mean an overwhelming win of the Democratic Presidential nominee (if it’s a progressive one) against the Republican nominee, in the general election, regarding that key issue. In other words: on this central political issue, the progressive position will not only sweep the Democratic primaries, but it will also be devastating against the Republican nominee in the general election. Yet nonetheless, the diehard conservative Obama (who is progressive only in his lying rhetoric) opposes it. That Wall Street “Democrat” opposes it.
Those Pew findings also show that, amongst Republican voters, on this issue, 59% favor the conservative position, whereas only 29% favor the progressive position.
So: a candidate such as Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would perform quite well among Republican voters if only they weren’t Black, or female, or (which is the most unacceptable thing of all for Republicans) self-described as being a “Democrat” even if they actually take on solidly Republican ideological positions and effectively block Democratic ones from being passed in Congress whenever they win the actual power to govern.
Nor is this Pew poll unusual or anomalous. Similar findings have predominated for a long time among the polling on this matter:
Here’s an extreme case: On 6 May 2014, CNBC bannered “CNBC survey shows millionaires want higher taxes to fix inequality,” and reported that their survey of “514 people with investable assets of $1 million or more” (not merely millionaires but people with over a million in “investable assets” alone), 64% included among their policy-prescriptions “to lessen the inequality of wealth in the United States,” “Higher taxes for the wealthy.” Furthermore: “Among those who say inequality is a problem, 78 percent of Democrats support higher taxes on the wealthy, and 77 percent back a higher minimum wage. That compares with 31 percent and 38 percent, respectively, for Republicans.” In other words: even in a Democratic candidate’s fundraising among Democratic Party donors, the progressive position will do better for a Democratic Party candidate than the conservative position on this issue will. There is simply no advantage for an honest Democrat to go the way Obama does.
This presents the obvious question: Why do candidates such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tend to win the nomination of the Democratic Party? The answer to that question is extremely complex, but what it comes down to is that, behind the scenes, the most powerful conservative American oligarchs, such as Rupert Murdoch, extremely wealthy Republicans, have actually provided vital assistance, sub-rosa, to candidates such as Hillary Clinton in America’s Democratic Party, and to candidates like Tony Blair in Britain’s Labour Party. This happens in such candidates’ party primaries, not in the general election (when those same donors are doing everything they can to crush the conservative Democrat whose nomination they had secretly assisted). In fact, this mechanism showed itself even in a general “election” when, during 2000 and 2004, some of the biggest Republican Party donors were secretly funneling money into Ralph Nader’s campaign in key states in order to help him to draw off enough Democratic voters to throw the Presidential general “election” to the Republican Party’s nominee. Of course, they succeeded in 2000 (by throwing both Florida and New Hampshire to Bush and therefore denying Al Gore the Presidency despite Gore’s having won 543,895 more votes in 2000 than Bush did).
Any Democrat who votes for any Democratic Party primary-election candidate when that candidate isn’t very clearly and unambiguously progressive is just a sucker of the aristocracy, because he’s being manipulated by them against not only his own best interest but the best interest of the nation. The end result of that is: we get “Democratic” Presidents like Obama and the Clintons. Look at what that has produced.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.