Anyone who robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on Paul's support. It's an exhausted aphorism -- and the siren strategy of the new American Left.
Indeed, the word "inequality" must poll extremely well these days. It's being used conspicuously and uniformly among liberals. Struggling Americans are in search of a villain, and successful Americans are the clear and easy target.
No politician in America is using the politics of envy and resentment more successfully, though, than freshly anointed New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio. He hasn't failed yet -- he's only been in a few days -- so the "tale of two cities" smoke he's blowing still tickles the synapses. President Barack Obama has used the class war strategy for five years, but his popularity has been shattered by the reality of his record, exemplified in the failures of big-government Obamacare. Time will do the same for de Blasio if he similarly pursues a leftist course, and his strident inaugural remarks this week suggests he will.
No one questions that there is income disparity in America. Never before have the wealthiest Americans been so rich, while at the same time wages have stagnated for poor and middle class Americans. What is a matter of fierce disagreement is the strategy and policies by which more Americans can lift themselves out of poverty.
Expropriating the wealth of top money earners doesn't work. We know that. It's been tried in its purest form repeatedly, with catastrophic results -- in Russia, Cuba, North Korea and elsewhere.
I saw two bumper stickers on a $40,000 Lexus in Westchester County this week. One read "Obama 2014." The other read "I Equality." It made me think of a line in a short story I read in college (I can't find the name of the story for the life of me). In describing a beautiful woman, the author wrote: "She had a face that defied Marxism."
That said it all to me. It said life is not fair. There is always someone smarter, luckier, richer and more attractive than you. But while equality may be unattainable, we have been blessed in America with an equality of opportunity greater than that of other nations. Keeping that, though, hinges on education and policies that present the fewest possible obstacles to wealth creation. That in a nutshell was the American experiment, and it worked better than any other system in world history. It has moved millions of American families into the middle class, even as many are struggling to remain there in an economy made lethargic from debt and overspending.
Not everyone starts out with the same opportunities. And it's not easy to rise out of poverty. But it becomes even harder when opportunity is suppressed by the type of heavy handed and counterproductive government policies that equality-talking politicians like de Blasio espouse. If he wants more equality, he should encourage kids to stay in school and make New York the most pro-business city in America.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a columnist and a Republican political consultant.