Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Did Obama's State of the Union abandon his focus on income inequality?

I didn't watch President Obama's speech last night, so I have no comments of my own. But I recommend reading what Mickey Kaus, Matthew Yglesias, and Andrew Sullivan have to say about it.

Here's one of Kaus's points:

In his allegedly table-setting, voice-finding December Kansas manifesto, Obama made a big deal about rising money inequality, citing statistics on the relative growth of the ”average income of the top 1%,” referencing the Occupy movement, etc. There was none of that in Tuesday’s speech. Obama only wants “an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” He didn’t say everyone “gets their fair share.” That’s not money-equalizing populism[.] It’s moderate Republicanism. Looks like Walter Russell Mead was right – [the Kansas speech] was just a ploy to stroke Obama’s left base, quickly abandoned when more Americans were paying attention. Or else it polled as badly as he suspected it would. Sorry, E.J. … (Don’t tell me about the Buffet Rule: Obama pitched his higher top tax rate for “millionaires” as a way to ensure equal sacrifice (as anticipated by W. Galston) not as a way to help reverse the growing income inequality trend.)
Yglesias writes:
Obama pledged to support “every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs,” perhaps making him the only person in America who didn’t read the New York Times story over the weekend about how Apple’s products are all built in Asia.

The right lesson to take from Apple might be that an economic agenda whose “blueprint begins with American manufacturing” is misguided. South Korea, Taiwan, and China all have us beat as builders of electronics. But the world’s leading mobile electronics maker is headquartered in the United States of America and it’s insanely popular. That’s because the greatest value in the electronics business is in the industrial design, the software engineering, the marketing, and the combination of research and intuition that help you figure out what products people will want. Manufacturing, as a statistical category, is more arbitrary than people realize. There’s no inherently greater virtue in putting tuna into a can . . . than in preparing a seared tuna appetizer . . . . If people aspire to remodel kitchens or teach yoga or treat illness or be hair stylists or be chefs or, God forbid, Internet columnists . . . there’s nothing wrong with that.