The emerging debate about income inequality has a visceral appeal for the media—and plenty of pitfalls.

The Democrats are also pushing it in part to score political points—and the coverage has to recognize that as well.

With President Obama preparing some anti-poverty proposals and six Senate Republicans helping the Democrats win a procedural vote on extending long-term unemployment benefits, the argument over haves and have-nots is suddenly grabbing the capital spotlight. That this is unfolding on the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s War on Poverty gives it a nice historical sheen.

But the press needs to be careful here.

Most journalists have a natural instinct to side with the downtrodden. If the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is too low, that’s because it is the one benefit program that isn’t indexed to inflation, forcing Congress to fight these battles every few years. Thirteen states are raising the minimum wage higher this year. But reporters have to consider the argument that boosting the benchmark too high could discourage small businesses from hiring.

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