Donald Trump is president, and one of his first priorities is getting his Cabinet picks confirmed.
Standing in his way are labor unions and their allies, who are particularly hysterical about one pick: Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, who has been nominated for labor secretary. Mr. Puzder’s opposition to counterproductive regulations that reduce entry-level job opportunities puts him in crosshairs of the unions and the advocacy groups that act as their echo chambers.
The smear campaign against Mr. Puzder has received an assist from the George Soros-backed Oxfam America (Oxfam). This may come as a surprise to those who picture Oxfam as a global anti-poverty group. Indeed, Oxfam’s website features poor Africans above a big “Give Monthly” donation button.
But like many nongovernmental organizations in recent years, its mission has become increasingly political. It champions various left-liberal causes, including antipathy toward genetically improved foods, organized labor’s workplace agenda, and higher taxes. It also engages in the activist pastime of holding consumer brands like PepsiCo, Mars and Kellogg hostage for their so-called labor, gender or climate abuses until it extracts concessions. It has made donations to left-wing activist groups, including the Center for American Progress and Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, the latter of which is leading the attack on Mr. Puzder with an unscientific Facebook survey of CKE employees.
Oxfam receives about $80 million in donations each year from big-name donors, including NBC Universal, Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, and the foundations of JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Kellogg. Do these companies know their donations are helping support left-wing activism — including groups that attack the president’s Cabinet nominees?
Oxfam built on its anti-capitalist critique last week when it released its yearly report on wealth inequality. The headline: Eight billionaires have more wealth than the bottom half of the population combined. The media was willing to showcase this statistic uncritically; in the light of day, it’s completely meaningless.
Consider: Roughly 70 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day (adjusted for purchasing power parity). This subsistence living allows for little to no savings or wealth creation. Through this lens, it’s clear that a 10-year-old getting birthday checks from Grandma could be wealthier than many in the bottom half of the global population. Indeed, if you have just $30 in savings, you are richer than 10 percent of the global population. At $250 in savings, you’re wealthier than 20 percent. And at $2,200 in savings, you have more wealth than those in the bottom half of the population. Welcome to the Forbes list of the wealthiest people on earth.
So why the alarmist headline about billionaires? Because billionaires are a better villain than an average working-class American. Billionaires also allow Oxfam to more easily realize its ultimate goal: a wealth tax. In addition to dramatic increases in the income tax to the 50 to 70 percent range, Oxfam’s “solutions” include the introduction of a “tax on financial transactions,” a “global wealth tax,” and an “anonymous wealth tax” (whatever that is). Such taxes would apply to savings after income, payroll, property, sales and other existing taxes are applied.
If Oxfam is concerned about wealth and income inequality, it could put some of its money where its mouth is and trim its own payrolls. In 2015, it spent more in salaries, benefits and fundraising fees than it did in grants. And the organization spent a hefty $5.2 million on travel and conference expenses. Oxfam President Raymond C. Offenheiser made more than half a million dollars, which puts him in the top 1 percent of U.S. earners that his organization constantly derides. Such inflated compensation and perks could do a lot of good if given directly to subsistence earners in developing countries.
All this isn’t to say that growing income inequality isn’t an important issue. But the best way to address it is not with more paralyzing union rules and suffocating taxes. Instead, we need a focus on developing career pathways and keeping them open. A focus on making job opportunities plentiful. Mr. Puzder understands this world. His detractors need to catch up.
• Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Company, a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C.