Hillary Clinton has come in for a lot of mockery over the revelation that she delivered a speech on income inequality in New York in April while wearing “a Giorgio Armani jacket reportedly worth $12,495,” as much as some of her poorer supporters make in a year. The jacket is just the tip of the iceberg of the Clinton money machine that has seen Mr. & Mrs. Clinton pull in $25 million over the past year and a half just for delivering speeches.
Does this make her a hypocrite? The main response from her supporters seems to be that there’s nothing hypocritical about a wealthy person caring about poverty and lack of economic opportunity — and that’s true. Whether you prefer liberal or conservative solutions to poverty, we should surely all want people who’ve been blessed with great wealth to put some thought and effort into caring for those with less.
But “poverty” and “opportunity” are not the Democratic themes of our age, nor were they the only focus of Mrs. Clinton’s speech:
Mrs. Clinton’s speech took aim at hedge-fund managers and CEOs who she said were reaping most of the benefits of economic growth, saying the top 25 hedge-fund managers earn more than all the nation’s kindergarten teachers combined.
Bernie Sanders–style progressives, and liberals like Mrs. Clinton who seek to appeal to them, are not content to talk about lifting up the poor and the middle class — they deliberately focus on criticizing the wealthy for being wealthy. They do this partly to justify tax hikes, partly because their supporters feel good resenting the wealthy, and partly because it’s a lot easier to fix the problem of too much wealth than of too little (as President Obama’s economic record amply demonstrates).
Of course this is hypocrisy, to denounce conspicuous wealth and argue for more government confiscation of it, while flaunting it yourself. The very definition of hypocrisy in public life is doing or having for yourself the things you propose taking from others. Hillary wants to have her cake and have Uncle Sam eat yours too.
And yet, given that liberals so often see hypocrisy as by far a worse moral failing than any other sin besides perhaps intolerance, they are often blind to it on their own side — they call to limit the use of energy, while galavanting around in private jets and high-powered SUV motorcades. They defend keeping poor kids in public schools without a choice to leave, while sending their own kids to expensive private academies. They hire picketers and leafleters to protest low wages and benefits, and pay them a pittance and no benefits. They press for strict gun controls, then hire armed private bodyguards of their own. They call for massive tax hikes, while seeking every tax shelter they can find. And they denounce income inequality while wearing $12,000 jackets. If we can’t make them even a little bit embarrassed about that, what can we criticize?