Washington's political reporters, in lightning knee-jerk speed, have embraced President Obama's Robin Hood war on “income inequality,” the latest example of the president's success in using the bully pulpit to steer attention to his new populist campaign.
The issue took center stage Wednesday during a briefing from the nonpartisan Business Roundtable meant to focus on the group's agenda to push economic growth from 2 percent to 4 percent, but instead saw several reporters pestering the group's president and chairman about the minimum wage and income distribution.
At first, Randall Stephenson, the Roundtable chairman and CEO of AT&T, and Roundtable President John Engler were patient with the questions from the reporters, many of whom have been in Washington for decades and are presumably well-paid.
Stephenson argued that if the administration helped to fix the economy, reduce regulations and expand trade, more jobs would be created. “If the economy is doing better, everyone is doing better,” Stephenson said at the briefing hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
But near the end, the gregarious Engler, a former Michigan governor, couldn't take it any more as the number of questions asked on wages, income and unemployment reached 10. So he flipped the issue back on the reporters, including those parroting the president, who plans to discuss the issue in his upcoming State of the Union address.
“There's income inequality around this table,” he said. “I'm very concerned that Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal and USA Today probably pays a lot more than some of the bloggers get paid. And I don't have a strategy to fix that.”
Engler added: “I do know that if there's more newsprint and demand for television and radio there's more jobs and opportunity, and this has been an environment where there's been some shrinking of those opportunities and newsrooms have gotten smaller, and that put the pressure on. It's the same thing with the whole rest of the economy, it's growth.”Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.