In "Fiddler on the Roof," the hero Tevye sang of how he wished he were wealthy. "If I Were a Rich Man" became a Broadway and movie favorite as a catchy tune and even catchier sentiment. As the struggling Russian peasant explained, "It's no shame to be poor, but it's no great honor either."
No, today, the shame is being rich, and President Obama seems determined to bestow the "honor" of poverty on as many as possible. Forget the horrendous tax-and-spend policies that gradually impoverish us all. Obama's new target is a direct one - the evil, greedy CEO. To do so, he is set to appoint Kenneth Feinberg as his new "Pay Czar."
The New York Times portrayed it as a new offensive against CEOs earning more than Obama likes, saying the administration is taking action as "part of a broad set of regulations on executive compensation expected to be announced by the administration as early as this week."
By most counts, this is at least Obama's 21st similar "czar," three more than Tevye would have been familiar with from the Russian Romanovs had he lived all 300 years of the dynasty.
Obama's fight isn't a new one. The mainstream media have been waging the class wars for decades - using news and entertainment to undermine the very free markets they rely on to do business. It doesn't matter if it's "Wall Street's" Gordon Gecko or some obscure film like the 1987 picture "Eat the Rich." The battle of worker's vs. CEOs even predates the arrival of reds and certainly the tedious Warren Beatty movie by the same name.
Obama had targeted executive pay in February, saying "these kinds of compensation packages in the midst of this economic crisis isn't just bad taste - it's bad strategy." The big media types loved the idea. CNN's Ed Henry told "Anderson Cooper 360" that the move was "wildly popular." Host Larry King, no slouch of an earner himself, called the CEOs "corporate fat cats." Chuckles from the CNN payroll department were heard far and wide.
In all of the coverage, the business world has been portrayed as depraved and indifferent, an easy target for pandering politicians like Obama and rich guy journalists who forget how many zeroes there are on their paychecks. (There are six on CBS anchor Katie Couric's $15 million annual salary.) But Obama isn't handing out pitchforks to target millionaire CEOs. That isn't his style.
Ironically, he has found his model in dynastic politics - naming czar after czar to act on every crisis real or perceived. The pay czar is only the latest royal screw-up. We've got an energy czar, a drug czar, a health care czar, a terrorism czar, etc. Well, you get the idea. Thankfully, no czar czar yet. That position is one Obama seemingly fills - czar of all the other czars.
Obama has almost as many czars as he has Cabinet posts, which means he has essentially doubled the size of his own piece of government. Not a bad feat for a guy who claims he isn't a big government liberal. It also means he has avoided those pesky confirmation hearings that have been so embarrassing for his tax-cheating appointees.
Even his own supporters have criticized the return of the czars. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) sent what the L.A. Times called "a cautionary letter to Obama" back in March, or several czars ago. He bashed the whole idea, saying they rarely testify and "often shield" information. "The rapid and easy accumulation of power by White House staff can threaten the constitutional system of checks and balances," Byrd said.
But Obama loves historical comparisons and, according to the Washington Examiner, the first such czar dates back to FDR's "'war production czar' Donald Nelson, who was joined by an economic czar, a manpower czar, a food czar and even a rubber czar."
Let's not forget, FDR was also fighting a world war, so a little executive power probably helped. But Obama is doing no such thing. He's just trying to remake our nation in his own image and not even letting Congress exert any authority. The czars and czarinas give him power fit for a king, and few in the media think that's a bad idea.
Hopefully, Obama's obsession with class warfare and czars will end sometime before we all become peasants and he becomes the first American czar. The first Russian one, by the way, went down in history as Ivan the Terrible.
Obama the Terrible?
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum and he can be seen each Thursday on Foxnews.com's "Strategy Room."