Governor Chris Christie, desperate to change the subject from Bridgegate and eager to reestablish his bona fides as a Republican presidential hopeful, told an audience in Chicago yesterday that the Democrats were wrong to worry about widening inequality because “Americans do not want income equality” — suggesting that it is antithetical to the country’s abiding belief in “income opportunity” that rewards hard work and merit. “You want income equality? That is mediocrity,” he said. “Everybody can have an equal, mediocre salary.”
But no one is arguing for equal incomes. The real worry — which most Americans share (see my post from yesterday) — is income and wealth have become so unequal, with 95% of all economic gains in this recovery going to the top 1%, that the middle class doesn’t have the purchasing power to get the economy out of first gear, that big money is inundating our democracy, and that the American dreams of upward mobility and equal opportunity are turning into nightmares of vested privilege. If Christie doesn’t understand this he doesn’t deserve to hold elective office; if he does understand this and is intentionally distorting the issue, he doesn’t deserve to hold elective office. Which is it: Is he a fool or a knave?
Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration.