A cornerstone of the Democratic Party strategy these days is the notion that wealth should be redistributed because of the widening gap between rich and poor. There’s just one drawback to this strategy: Income inequality is greater in Democratic congressional districts than in those held by Republicans. Is it that the Democrats are jinxes, or are the Democratic Party programs causing the disparity?
Business Week reports that Democrats represent 32 of the 35 districts in which income inequality is highest, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Republicans represent two; the other is vacant.
Why do Democrats control so many? Because almost every one of the 35 seats is in an urban center dominated by two groups of people living in close proximity: highly educated, highly paid whites and poor blacks and Latinos. These groups are essentially the Democratic Party’s base.
The numbers highlight a dilemma for Democrats. Clearly, extreme inequality correlates strongly with Democratic representation. Growing inequality will pose a threat to Republicans — one reason Obama and the Democrats are talking about it. But this is unlikely to benefit Democrats in the midterm elections. Of the 100 districts with the highest levels of inequality, not one held by a Republican is considered at risk of being stolen by a Democratic challenger.
Among the districts with the widest income gaps, most are 95 percent or more urban, Census data show. The district with the widest income gap belongs to New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler — it includes Wall Street as well as poor parts of Brooklyn. Nadler says escalating real estate prices driven by “Saudi princes” and “Russian oligarchs” are contributing to the widening gap in the district, home to the corporate headquarters of Goldman Sachs Group (GS) and Verizon Communications (VZ).
What does this mean from a 2014 standpoint? The income inequality pitch may work in a national election but it doesn’t help in congressional elections because when Democratic Party Congressmen talk income inequality they are preaching to the choir.
Income inequality has increased during the Obama years, perhaps by making it an issue the Democrats are hurting themselves because sooner or later voters in these Democratic Party-controlled districts are going to figure out where the disparity is, and under which party is it getting worse.