“What’s that smell in this room?  Didn’t you notice it, Brick?  Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room? ….Sister Woman, do you smell the mendacity? I don’t know what that is, Big Daddy………..You can smell it!”                                        – Tennessee Williams (Cat On a Hot Tin Roof).

It seems logical: Addressing the perceived widening rift between America’s rich and poor should not be characterized as “economic inequality” – an ignorant over simplification.

David Brooks, national syndicated columnist,  recently wrote: “it is clearly wrong to sacrifice some of your conviction for immediate popularity. Basically you are trading in something deep for something shallow.”  Wish I’d written that.

Launching its 2014 national political campaign with unvarnished bravado, our current administration, in addition to a rerun of its “war on women”, is adding a proliferating addition:  “war on the rich one percent.”  It’s easy pickings – this quick-target group generates little sympathy and becomes a smokescreen for America’s problematic economy. Deception is dutiful.

There is truth – our 1 percenters often appear as “outsized and outlandish”, wrote Robert Samuelson, Washing Post economic columnist. This gives life to the current misleading fad of holding the wealthy fully accountable for the nation’s economic woes. But recent economic history nags.

Five years after the Great Recession, the U.S. economy still has 1.3 million fewer jobs than it had in 2008. Unemployment soared in 2009, particularly among 24-54-year-olds – the prime working population; it has lagged in recovery since.  Zeroing in on histrionic charges of “economic inequality”, politicians refuse to acknowledge the U.S. economy is confronted with far more sophisticated challenges, requiring thoughtful problem solving – not campaign sophistry.

Consider a recent Wall Street Journal report on Deme Tech Corporation, a Miami maker of surgical sutures and blades.  This company, like many others, is posting higher revenue – but simultaneously trimming payrolls. The firm is investing in technology that automates many functions, making as many of its products “with machines as robots will allow”. It has cut 20 of 100 jobs over the past year – a small example of future jobs dynamic.

Excessive governmental licensing brings paralysis to productive hiring. For instance, it requires an average of 372 training days to become a cosmetologist, compared with 33 days to become an emergency medical technician. Such mandates harm job growth, and training. The Affordable Care Act, with its continuous rewrites, generates further hindrances to job growth, becoming research thesis-projects for eager economic grad school candidates.

With 46 million Americans in 2012 below the government’s poverty line, only six percent had year-round full time jobs. Men, from 25 – 55, with high school diplomas or less, experienced job decreases  from more than 90 per cent in 1970 – to less than 75 percent in 2010 (Brookings Institution). Unsurprising, African Americans men, ages 20 to 24, struggled with a working share of less than half.

About “economic inequality”: It creates assertive narrative to punish the rich, but neglects confronting a weak economy. In fact “economic inequality” is more likely a consequence of the nation’s difficulty – not a cause. Robert Samuelson concludes that “the poor are not poor because the rich are rich – they are clearly unrelated.

Reasons for poverty are uncomplicated:  inadequate, abbreviate public education, or both;  weaknesses associate with single parent households;  drug abuse;  men dropping out of the work force; and an underground economy. Samuelson’s research convinces that conveniently adopting “economic inequality” as cause célèbre for blaming the Great Recession initially, is bunk.

Economists at Washington University in St. Louis remind that in the 1980’s income growth for the bottom 95 percent of Americans slowed, instigating a new surge in borrowing.  All that borrowing lead to a ballooning consumption boom that was unsustainable from 1980 to 2007.  Household debt rose from 72 percent to 137 percent of disposable income. Alas, consumption spending jumped from 61 percent of gross domestic product to 67 percent for the same years. Huge. This consumer bubble had no relationship to “economic inequality”, or the unattractive rich.

Oh, if only economically punishing the rich would miraculously uplift those in poverty!

But it won’t….we will endure another mendacious campaign year, avoiding the enormous complications of America’s economic challenges, and watching the straw man of “economic inequality” play out its role.

“Sister Woman, can you smell the mendacity in this room? ………………………… I can – I can smell it.”

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