At a recent campaign stop in Pella, Iowa, presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R – PA) made special note of his (and the majority of his party’s) views on economic reform as relevant to today’s socio-economic upheavals.
According to the former senator, sympathy for the nation’s “blue-collar [and] lower-income workers” is the root of all fiscal evils, and that it is healthy economic policy to actually encourage income inequality throughout the country.
“The reason you see some sympathy among the American public for them is the grave concern,” he said, according to the Des Moines Register, “and it’s a legitimate one.”
“They talk about income inequality. I’m for income inequality. I think some people should make more than other people, because some people work harder and have better ideas and take more risk, and they should be rewarded for it. I have no problem with income inequality.” (emphasis mine)
Santorum is – by far – speaking for the entire gaggle of Republican leadership as he echoes the sentiment that has resonated throughout the “Party of No” since perhaps the Reagan era while demonstrating little-to-no recognition of the fact that - according to a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office – income inequality has taken a serious hit in recent years.
According to the study, the top 1% of earners saw their incomes rise by 275% from 1979 to 2007, while the bottom 20% only saw their incomes rise by less than 20%, and the middle 60% incomes rose by less than 40%.
But by Santorum’s rationale, large cross-sections of the country that are being heavily and negatively impacted by our nation’s economic woes - brought on by frivolous spending, deregulated industries and irresponsible business practices – have found themselves facing the brunt of it all simply due to not working hard enough; a sentiment reminiscent of former-flash-in-the-pan Republican candidate Herman Cain’s suggestion to Occupy Wall Street activists that they need only blame themselves for not being rich.
Where are the “Joe the Plumbers” and “Mama Grizzly” hockey moms on this one? Where are the spouses, families and dependents of our nation’s grossly under-compensated and under-appreciated war veterans who – according to Santorum – should just work harder?
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 1% of earners saw their incomes rise by 275% from 1979 to 2007, while the bottom 20% only saw their incomes rise by less than 20%, and the middle 60% incomes rose by less than 40%.
Do our cities’ policemen, firefighters and emergency personnel not work hard enough? In the likely event of another devastating terrorist attack or natural disaster, is the seven-figure Wall Street exec going to roll up his/her sleeves to protect, save and aid scores of endangered strangers?
Are our public-service employees not pulling their weight? Do teachers and other learning professionals – many of whom dedicate countless hours of personal time, money and creative effort while getting paid sub-par compensations – not take greater personal stake in their careers than a Congressman?
Are farmers, factory workers, mine diggers, oil riggers, street-washers, pipe-fitters and light-fixers not putting in enough hours to qualify for financial security?
Have office workers who have been downsized thanks to deregulated Free Trade agreements with third world nations simply not acted entrepreneurial enough to make the grade?
Should working families struggling to make ends meet while inflicted with the ever-inflating costs of higher education for their children, a plummeting housing market and skyrocketing energy and food costs be expected to shoulder the national burden(s) alone?
“If working hard meant an escape from poverty, then many American single mothers would’ve been millionaires by now.” – Shawn Russell, DailyKos.com
Is a government willing to work for people of all incomes and allow for protected, social mobility not “American” enough? Apparently so, as Santorum insists of President Obama’s valued approach to equality.
In typical Right wing fashion, Santorum insists on the president’s supposed anti-American approach to economics; playing to his base’s less-than-stellar understanding of economics, history and government.
“President Obama is for income equality. That’s socialism. It’s worse yet, it’s Marxism…I’m not for income equality. I’m not for equality of result. I’m for equality of opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Obama – a self-made rich man himself – has repeatedly openly praised free-market capitalism for its benefits while calling attention to the rising threat of income inequality.
The President is on record speaking in favor of big bonuses paid to the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, saying “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”
But, logically, he understands that – according to his speech in Osawatomie, Kansas earlier this month, we need to ensure “that everyone in America gets a fair shot at success” and that rising income inequality “hurts us all.”
While the Republican party – as represented so dutifully here by Senator Santorum – is clamoring to wrongfully convince voters that the nation’s “progressive, liberal movements” like Occupy Wall Street are attempting to vilify success, wealth and capitalism, the truth is that those bearing the brunt of the burden are simply suggesting that capitalism start acting my responsibly and, well, American.
No reasonable American in this country would argue that income equality is the answer. They would, however, suggest that the divide between the classes is widening and that the middle and lower classes are being expected to contribute much more while having their statuses remain stagnant.
What Santorum and his ilk are not grasping – or, perhaps more accurately choosing not to acknowledge – is that income inequality creates opportunity inequality and perpetuates a financial structure that caters solely to the wealthy.
When only the rich can give their children the tools to succeed, then only the rich will succeed. When only the rich can afford to be healthy then only the rich will live long enough to retire. In a system where you have to pay to play then only the rich will play.
That’s not socialism or Marxism, that’s common sense. Or, as President Obama put it so eloquently last September: “It’s not class warfare. It’s math.”
(Featured image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)