Presidential campaigns have no shortage of factually empty platitudes and gross hypocrisy deployed for political gain. It's early still, but I'll wager that the 2016 campaign will see no more scoff-worthy talking point that the Republicans' sudden concern about economic inequality.
Inequality of income and wealth in America—the rise of the .01%—has been increasing in earnest for more than three decades now, its beginning coinciding perfectly with the Reagan era. An honest politically neutral reading of the issue would be: Reagan's policies helped to set our current era of inequality in motion, and the Democratic presidents we've had since then failed to do anything meaningful to reverse its course.
The fact that inequality has been rising since the 1980s tells you that it rose under Barack Obama, as it did under his predecessors. Obama stands out in this context for two reasons: one, he inherited the worst economic meltdown of any of the past five presidents, and two, he proposed more meaningful anti-inequality measures than any of them as well. Obama's most recent budget proposal, while hardly enough to satisfy the socialists among us, did propose measures aimed directly at remedying inequality, including higher taxes on the very rich and greater subsidies for the poor and middle class.
These measures were declared "dead on arrival" by our Republican Congress. Barack Obama, quite simply, is not able to implement even modest anti-inequality measures due to Republican opposition. Everyone, Republican and Democrat alike, understands this.
The fact that Republicans are responsible for blocking any attempt to remedy economic inequality does not stop prospective Republican presidential candidates from using the rise in inequality under Obama as an argument against Barack Obama's administration. (Ramesh Ponnuru's NYT op-ed yesterday gives a rundown of the some of the prime offenders.) This tactic is like throwing acid in someone's face and then accusing them of being ugly. The political party most directly responsible for the rise of economic inequality and its continued growth is using the rise of economic inequality and its continued growth as proof that the other political party is not to be trusted. This is ridiculous even by presidential campaign standards. It should be understood by every voter that the Republican party believes you are very stupid. So does the Democratic Party, probably, but not on this particular issue.
The Republican party believes that voters are so stupid that even Mitt Fucking Romney felt safe uttering the phrase "Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer." The idea of explaining what is wrong with that scene makes me physically tired.
Today, a thoroughly mainstream and widely respected CEO and investor told Bloomberg that if America does not do something to remedy its economic inequality, we can expect that "the peasants with the pitchforks come out and start rioting." That is an honest, mainstream reading of our current situation. I don't know what you would call the Republican party's message of our current situation. I'd call it insulting.