The long slog by activists – within and without of the Occupy Wall Street Movement – to bring the question of wealth inequality to the center of the American political debate has finally succeeded. Even President Obama has now called inequality the defining issue of our time. This has, not surprisingly, driven the trickle-down economics/Neoliberal crowd wild. They want to talk about anything but wealth inequality and class.
So the news outlets catering to the market fundamentalists have begun to attack the idea that there even is inequality then employed a number of lame rhetorical strategies to respond if you don’t buy that one. Case in point the Wall Street Journal.
The bit about the WSJ’s continuing denialism on rising inequality brings to mind a point I think I’ve made before, but which seems especially appropriate for recent debates. It is this: Today’s right wing never gives up on a politically convenient argument, no matter how thoroughly it may have been refuted by analysis and evidence. It may downplay that argument for a while — though often even that doesn’t happen — but it always comes back.
Inequality is a clear though not at all unique example. Consider three arguments one might make against 21st-century populism:
1. Inequality isn’t increasing.
2. OK, inequality is increasing, but it’s not a problem.
3. OK, it would be nice to have lower inequality, but any proposed solutions would do more harm than good.
So it’s not true, if it is true it’s not a problem, and anything you try to do about it will just make it worse. In the blogging world such a strategy is often termed “FUD” for fear, uncertainty, doubt. And, of course, the right does a fair amount of what we would also call “concern trolling.”
Nonetheless, the tactics do seem to be working with a certain segment of the population who still believe, despite reality, that trickle-down economics works. But for everyone else it is just irritating and confusing to see such dishonest arguments being made in the mainstream press.
This kind of thing flummoxes many people, who imagine that we’re having a real debate. It makes perfect sense, however, once you realize that the other side here isn’t engaged in good-faith argument, just looking for anything that comes to hand, with no regard for consistency.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
It is bad enough when party hacks and industry lobbyists engage in this kind of conduct but isn’t the Wall Street Journal supposed to be a serious newspaper?