The intellectual bankruptcy of claiming the poor merely 'envy' the rich

Conservatives' rhetorical turn is truly mind-boggling — and ignorant of history

Wall Street
(Image credit: (Andrew Burton/Getty Images))

Economic inequality in America is as bad as it's been in a century. And with 95 percent of income gains going to the top 1 percent, the gap between classes is widening at a breakneck pace. This has put defenders of our existing economic order in a tough spot, forcing them to justify a system that Americans increasingly regard as unfair.

When Occupy Wall Street forced the issue of inequality onto the national stage in 2011, the initial conservative response was to emphasize opportunity. In a speech written one month after Occupy began, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor summed up the opportunity position nicely: "The basis upon which America was founded and the basis upon which America thrives is providing people with the equality of opportunity — not equality of outcome."

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