I can't imagine that any remotely aware and thinking person believes them to be sincere.
Republicans have begun, rhetorically at least, to acknowledge the reality of income and wealth inequality. Mitt Romney, whose fervent desire to inhabit the White House will be forever unrequited, tried to once again shake that proverbial etch a sketch to show himself a champion of the middle class. He can stop now that he is no longer running. No one believed it anyway. Romney's expressions of "concern" have been echoed by many other republicans. Senator Marco Rubio referred to figures highlighting the income gap as "startling". Mitch McConnell has correctly referred to the current upturn as a "top of the income recovery". House Speaker John Boehner has allowed that "We do have an issue of income inequality in America."
Of course, quick on the heels of their acknowledgements of the existence of income inequality is their placement of blame for it squarely on the shoulders of President Barack Obama. Never mind that republicans have blocked efforts to raise the minimum wage. Never mind that republicans have blocked the infrastructure investments that creates construction jobs. Never mind that republicans have blocked the extension of unemployment benefits, fought against the sunset of the Bush Administration's tax cuts for the wealthy and reject any effort to end the deductibility of expenses incurred for shipping jobs overseas. Republicans recognize the abject stupidity of those whose blinding hatred of President Obama compel a willful ignorance of the difference between coincidence and causality. President Obama is the one who is in office, so he must be the cause of the income inequality that is occurring. Nonsense, of course.
Income and wealth inequality in America is a reality decades in the making and the solutions may require perhaps decades to fully correct. To be sure, those solutions don't include the tax cutting for the rich and the kinds of deregulation sure to be offered by those republicans who - after decades of tax cutting and deregulation - claim to have seen the light on inequality. Some of the sources of inequality are inevitable (e.g., technological advance) while some of the sources are policy driven (e.g., distribution of tax burden) while still others are driven by good ol' fashioned greed and the power to compel the political class to acquiesce to the demands of greed. President Obama has recently laid out a budget proposal reflective in part of a desire to reverse the shifting of the tax burden - begun under Reagan and accelerated under G.W. Bush - away from the ultra-wealthy and onto the middle class. But the drivers of inequality strike me as being more broadly based relative to those drivers upon which President Obama seeks to address in his recent budget proposal and include:
- Productivity gains created by investments in technology and by employees working harder and smarter have accrued far more to the benefit of the investor class than to labor.
- The loss of America's manufacturing base and all of the jobs related thereto.
- The ability for companies in both manufacturing and service sectors to access labor globally exposes American workers to competition from foreign workers willing to work for compensation levels that reflect their countries' much lower standard and cost of living.
- Tax policies that favor capital over wages, even when that capital is used for purposes that provide little to no macroeconomic benefit.
- Tax policies - meant primarily to encourage savings on the part of middle class - that allow the wealthiest to defer or completely avoid taxes on massive amounts of gains.
- The favored use of corporate profits for stock price maximization through capital markets transactions over business growth and expansion.
- The rising cost of higher education into a range that makes it increasingly unaffordable for each new generation.
The above list are the areas that must be addressed if America is to reverse its yawning gap in bottom-to-top income and increasing concentration of wealth. The republicans attempting to blame the Obama Administration for such inequality have no intention of working to address it and every time they voice their newfound concern over economic mobility and opportunity, my hope is that whoever they are talking to challenges them with the question: "What do you propose to do about it?". What we will likely find is that their ideas for addressing income inequality involve more of the same horrendously failed policies that contributed greatly to creating it. Those who believe them and support them with their votes - particularly those working and middle class voters most negatively affected by their policies - are either already very well off, flatulently ignorant or galactically stupid.