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Inequality ignored in Obama’s new populist rhetoric

What inequality? Obama to ignore inequality during midterm elections
What inequality? Obama to ignore inequality during midterm elections
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats and republicans alike believe they can take on a populist agenda without discussing the controversial topic of inequality amid fears of creating a class warfare.

Therefore team Obama has no intention of stirring the pot by mentioning inequality during the midterm elections of 2014.

The populist rhetoric came in vogue in large part due to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Occupy blamed Wall Street and big business for the inequality between the 99 percent of Americans that was getting poorer and a 1 percent that was increasingly getting wealthier.

The language of the 99 percent movement was quickly appropriated by the Tea Party and the Ron Paul Revolution that positioned themselves as allies of the 99 percent with a common populist agenda.

Both movements were instrumental in shifting the debate.

While the Tea Party and Occupy both railed against government bailouts of too big to fail banks, the Tea Party was focused on government interference of the free market and the use of ordinary people's tax dollars. The Tea Party successfully used the bailout as a launching pad for a discussion that made taxation a populist issue.

Americans are now skeptical of using their tax system for the re-distribution of wealth as Obama recently explained to New Yorker's David Remnick:

"The appetite for tax-and-transfer strategies, even among Democrats, much less among Democrats and Republicans, is somewhat limited."

This is despite a recent analysis by the economist Thomas Picketty that tax redistribution is essential to reducing the wealth gap that is causing the middle class to swiftly drop below the poverty index.

Meanwhile, the Ron Paul Revolution completely co-opted the language of populism to garb their political movement as a people's revolution. Big government was pitted against the Constitution and the original intent of the founding fathers. The argument required an interpretation of history that was as enthralling as The Da Vinci Code complete with secret cabals and conspiracies. And no mention or even indication of the growing wealth inequality.

The most compelling idea to come out of "the Reloveution" was that the Federal Reserve was colluding with international bankers to create hyperinflation and devalue the dollar. This would affect the people who work hard and save money as their savings would buy less goods. None of the predictions about the Fed's monetary policies had come to pass.

The solution given by "the Reloveution" was to go back to a gold standard or base money on another commodity or standard. Unfortunately, such a solution will exasperate inequality since the 1 percent own most of the commodities including gold and can easily buy out crypto currencies creating an environment where the rich would rule with no restraint.

Because of the confused messaging from populous rhetoric, a New Populism conference was organized by The Campaign for America's Future and featured high profile Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The conference focused on the most pressing issue of inequality.

But Americans don't want to hear it. Research has shown that Americans want to hear words that help them with positive thinking and "the law of attraction" and not the contradictory evidence of dry statistics and accurate financial projections.

Projections like the ones recently released by the OECD which show that income inequality will grow to unprecedented levels between now and 2060 concurrent with worldwide economic growth.

Americans prefer to believe in an old model where everyone benefits from economic growth and not just the few. They would rather pretend they are living in a level playing field where they can simply succeed with a positive mental attitude and that they can attract wealth simply by acting wealthy.

Market research shows that most Americans find talk of inequality distasteful. And politicians are listening.

And who can say whether the vast majority of Americans are right or wrong? Only time will tell.

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