— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) December 16, 2013
Matthew Continetti noticed the above tweet from Katie Couric, and this one, in which she is perfectly groomed, wearing expensive clothing, drinking what is no doubt fine wine, and seeming to thoroughly enjoy the lifestyle of the rich and famous. She’s a big fan of Mayor-Elect Bill DiBlasio, who claims to be a big champion of the downtrodden who wants to eliminate income inequality. I wonder if either of them, or any of the inequality merchants, get the irony in the fact that they all live lives of wealth and privilege.
Couric, however, shows no sign of feeling implicated in the social injustices that her new mayor deplores. Her conscience is as spotless as that porcelain bathtub.
It’s a funny thing about the inequality debate that has consumed the American intelligentsia for the past several years: The individuals who are most interested in identifying, describing, diagnosing, and addressing the phenomenon of income inequality are the individuals least affected by it. We are not living through a revival ofChartism. There has been no recurrence of the Pullman Strike to galvanize public attention on the dissatisfaction of labor. The closest we have come to a popular revolt is the Tea Party, a protest movement of the beleaguered white middle and upper middle classes that wants government to do less, not more. The passionate spokesmen against inequality look a lot like Couric and de Blasio: Wealthy progressive journalists and politicians, intellectuals, nonprofit employees, academics, social workers, consultants, and activists whose professional and social identities are defined in relation to “hot topic” issues. For these people income inequality is not only an economic and social trend to be lamented, but also a trend upon which their incomes and status depend. Inequality is a business.
And business is booming. Since his December 2011 speech in Osawatamie, Kan.,President Obama has made income inequality the centerpiece of his economic agenda. Two years later, after de Blasio’s victory and during a spate of favorablecoverage for de Blasio and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), President Obama gavea second speech, calling inequality the “defining challenge of our time,” and pledging “for the rest of my presidency” to “focus all our efforts” on narrowing the income gap. The speech was made in conjunction with the opening of a new think tank, the Center for Equitable Growth.
Chaired by John Podesta, the former lobbyist and D.C. power player who will join the White House in January, the Center for Equitable Growth is housed at another Podesta think tank, the Center for American Progress, which we now know receives funding from corporations, lobbying firms, and affiliates of foreign governments. Income inequality is the star around which an entire constellation of institutions and money revolves. It drives more than debate. It drives careers. Think of all of the jobs that depend on inequality, all of the foundation directors, program officers, grant writers, economists, authors, public servants, and MSNBC hosts whose ability to pay the mortgage or rent, to travel, to enjoy the professional life in D.C. and New York would be diminished greatly if income inequality vanished overnight.
The worst thing about these merchants of inequality is that everything they do makes inequality worse. But it’s good for their own bottom line. How twisted is that?