Obama and the politics of economic inequality

Weakened by problems with his health-care initiative, President Obama turned back to the economy last week to rebalance his presidency with a speech about income inequality. He said he would devote much of his remaining time in office to the issue, calling it the “defining challenge of our time.” …

Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, sees issues of economic insecurity and inequality as centrally important to voters, with appeal across party lines. People may not talk about income inequality per se, he said, but sentiment is widespread that something is fundamentally wrong with the way the benefits of the economic system are distributed. …

How potent is the issue politically? Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University, one of the nation’s leading political scientists, looked at the 2012 election, which was fought over many of the themes and issues Obama highlighted again last week. Bartels concluded that the broad issue of inequality added 2 to 3 percentage points to Obama’s share of the overall vote and about 1 point in the battleground states. CONT.

Dan Balz, Washington Post