NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Inequality is President Obama's highest priority, but his solutions are wholly naive.
Disparities between the rich and the poor are as ancient as civilization, but in modern democracies, this condition is exacerbated by globalization and technologies that drive it.
Successive advances in communication and transportation, for example, permit top opera singers, athletes and other professionals to reach wider audiences and earn incomes many times greater than their peers.
Before the radio, phonograph and moving pictures virtually every city, small and large, had an opera house or music hall that offered live entertainment. The top stars sang in New York, London and Milan and earned considerable wealth, but many local performers and traveling journeymen could earn a decent living, too
Caruso made 260 recordings for RCA Victor from 1904 to 1920, and radio sent his voice around the world. His income soared to levels unheard in past generations, but less renowned performers were displaced as regional opera companies folded.
Satellite communications, the Internet and jet travel permit star journalists to reach millions across the globe, but are causing the demise of newspapers and opportunities for local reporters and columnists. The same goes for Wall Street bankers, big-firm lawyers and multinational executives, but at the expense of their brethren in smaller enterprises.
For ordinary workers, cheaper ocean and rail transportation for goods and the Internet for services have magnified global competition. More workers in the United States must now compete with those in China. Workers in northern Europe must compete with those in southern Europe and in large Chinese cities with those elsewhere in Asia.
Governments have made extremes in income worse. Big cities, often with federal support, subsidize concert halls and sports stadiums, and further raise the salaries of top performers and big-league ball players.
The U.S. and European Union have gone along with trade and environmental agreements that permit China to charge high tariffs on imports and avoid pollution abatement, making made-in-China even cheaper. That pushes down wages for American and European workers and wreaks havoc on the global environment.