House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) was supposed to deliver a speech on income inequality at the University of Pennsylvania today, but canceled when he realized that the public would be allowed to attend the speech (which, according to Penn, had been the case all along). The Daily Pennylvanian instead released his prepared remarks.
Income inequality in the country is currently as high as it’s been since the Great Depression. The richest 1 percent of Americans make nearly one quarter of the national income, and the 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent combined. Since 1979, “the gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the middle and poorest fifths of the country more than tripled.” And the trends are only getting worse.
With all that to grapple with, Cantor’s speech quite literally has no policy proposals in it at all. In fact, the closest he comes to presenting an actual idea is a plea not to say mean things about rich people or ask them to pay their fair share in taxes:
There are politicians and others who want to demonize people that have earned success in certain sectors of our society. They claim that these people have now made enough, and haven’t paid their fair share. But, pitting Americans against one another tends to deflate the aspirational spirit of our people and fade the American dream. I believe that the most successful among us are positioned to use their talents to help grow our economy and give everyone a hand up the ladder and the dignity of a job. We should encourage them to extend their creativity and generosity to helping build the community infrastructure that provides a hand up and a fair shot to those less fortunate. […] Instead of talking about a fair share or spending time trying to push those at the top down, elected leaders in Washington should be trying to ensure that everyone has a fair shot and the opportunity to earn success up the ladder. The goal shouldn’t be for everyone to meet in the middle of the ladder. We should want all people to be moving up and no one to be pulled down. How do we do that? It cannot simply be about wealth redistribution. You don’t just take from the guy at the top to give to the guy at the bottom and expect our problems to be solved.
Cantor also mentions that lawmakers should embrace “a Steve Jobs Plan,” under which “those who are successful not only create good jobs and services that make our lives better, they also give back and help everyone move just a little bit further up the ladder and everybody wins.” But that’s it. No actual ideas of any kind. Cantor’s entire speech is a story about his grandmother and a plea to not raise taxes on the wealthy.
Last weekend, Cantor said on Fox News that the proper way to address income inequality is to simply rely on the already wealthy. Anyone hoping that his speech today would provide some concrete policy proposals would have been left disappointed, if he had actually delivered it. Just in case Cantor wants to try it again sometime, here are some actual ideas for reducing income inequality.