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David Cay Johnston Takes Apart Chris Christie's False Meme On 'Income Equality'

Chris Hayes and David Cay Johnston take apart Chris Christie for playing one of the Republicans' favorite games, which is to make up something out of whole cloth that your opponents did not say and then argue against it as though they did.
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As was already discussed here at C&L, Chris Christie was out pandering to the 1 percent this week and attempting to turn the fact that we've got record income disparity on its head and pretend that what Democrats or those pushing to level the playing field really want is for everyone's pay to be "equal," which of course is not what anyone on the left is saying or advocating for.

On this Wednesday's All in With Chris Hayes, David Cay Johnston did a wonderful job of taking apart the false meme that Christie was hoping the rest of us are stupid enough to swallow. About the only people that I can imagine this going over well with are the wingnuts out there who have bought into the idea that President Obama is somehow an evil dictator who ignores Congress, a Socialist, a Marxist and a Communist all at the same time who is hell-bent on destroying America as we know it.

Everyday Americans who haven't had their brains fried by right-wing hate talk or Faux "news" have known for some time that trickle-down doesn't work and that the game has been rigged for the rich and against the average working person who is just trying to get by for a very long time now.

Here's a reminder of what Christie said this week:

I think that the problem we have is an opportunity gap. Not an income equality gap.

And I think that one of the big discussions in conversations over the course of the next two years in national politics is going to be, do you want mediocrity or do you want greatness? You want income equality? That`s mediocrity. Everybody can have an equal mediocre salary. That`s what we can afford.

Or do you want the opportunity for greatness?

Hayes and Johnston let him have it for that nonsense.

HAYES: So, there he was yesterday in his role as the head of the Republican Governors Association, speaking to a roomful of business leaders, castigating the class warriors who are whining about inequality. [...]

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: Well, here`s my problem with Chris Christie. Nobody, Chris, who is a player in this area, has been arguing for equal income. Nobody.

HAYES: Exactly.

JOHNSTON: It`s a false meme. And furthermore, he doesn`t have the Founding Fathers on his side. My piece in "Newsweek" right now is about how the Founding Fathers, Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Adams, the others, all wrote that what they feared would doom our country was extreme inequality. And they wrote it again and again, they put it into a 1792 law.

It`s very clear that they felt that extreme inequality would doom this grand experiment in self-governance.

So, one thing I guess we can say about Chris Christie is he`s trying to fill in the holes in the plot line of the fictional story he`s been out selling by diverting our attention somewhere else, is he certainly wouldn't want us to go back and look at what the founders in this country said about inequality.

HAYES: It's good you say that, because there`s this condescension in this whole thing, whiny liberals or lefties that worry about this. [...]

HAYES: You know, where do I start on this? The idea that Chris Christie`s going to tell the low wage workers in America, the people in poverty, the people who are struggling to make ends meet, that they are acting like 13-year-olds or 10-year-olds arguing over a toy in the back seat.

JOHNSTON: Well, he`s also saying it`s their fault.

HAYES: That`s right.

JOHNSTON: My new book "Divided", which is an anthology, I`m the editor of it. In it, what we do is show from people from Plutarch and Adam Smith, to Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, that there`s a whole system here you have to look at. Income inequality is just the way we can view this, but there`s education inequality, there`s environmental hazards, there`s family and the inability of parents to spend time raising their children, because they need two incomes and maybe three or four incomes at the current wage levels we have.

So, there are all these structural things that keep people at the bottom. And that`s got to be central to the debate. That what we have in America is a system of upward redistribution. You heard me say this before, it`s not trickle down, it`s Amazon up.

HAYES: Yes, and I also want to focus on this idea that -- in the first club when he talked about opportunity, because to me, this word opportunity is like the waste band in an old pair of sweat pants. It`s getting stretched so much that it basically means nothing, right? It`s a deficit, a word you use to signify whatever policy you want beforehand. And that goes to left and the right, right?

When people start talking about opportunity, they are officially talking nonsense, because the word has no meaning, right? It`s not like our country has any policies that actually are committed to something that looks like equality of opportunity, because if we actually took that idea seriously, we would be a vastly more redistributed state than we are right now.

JOHNSTON: Well, and we wouldn't be doing things like -- virtually all the stock options and stock grants in this country go to the top two percent of people at corporations. Even though employee stock owned companies are more profitable, more durable and more efficient. You don`t see broad stock ownership at companies.

When I went to college, college was free. Now, it`s a barrier. If you`re poor, you can`t go to college.

HAYES: Yes.

JOHNSTON: There`s no possible way for you in many circumstances, including getting to the campus. So, we need to recognize we`ve created a system that is perpetuating and reinforcing holding people down and it`s making us poorer.

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