Two policy-related issues over the last decade have gotten a lot of press: climate-change, and more recently, economic inequality. Taking these issues seriously requires governmental policy and tax changes. Publicly, congress' head is in the sand, but privately, many Republicans and Democrats take the problems seriously.
What's intriguing to me is how vociferous the anti-climate change and anti-inequality forces have become. If you read closely, you'll note that the issues are tied closely to the anti-tax movement. Still, to paraphrase Artemus Ward, the 19th century humorist: It ain't so much the things (we) don't know that get (us) into trouble. It's the things (we) know that just ain't so.
For example, we now know that more than 95% of scientists agree that humanity has impacted climate to the point where unless we make changes in industry and life-style, long term this planet is in trouble--that includes our children and grandchildren. The scientific issue is actually settled. The question is whether congress and the public will want to do anything constructive about it.
The more recent hullabaloo has been over whether or not the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. Government programs can and do reduce inequality. Indeed, there's a great deal that can be done to reduce inequality.
However, there's a noisy band of American inequality deniers who are trying to convince us that the rich aren't getting richer, nor are the poor getting poorer. In a spirited rejoinder to the issue, Jay Coggins, an applied economist at the University of Minnesota wrote commentary on the issue in today's Star Tribune.
Coggins' thesis is clear and direct:
Economists, a famously contentious bunch, disagree about many things. On the question of economic inequality, though, they disagree hardly at all: American inequality is high and rising.
Economists, Coggins relates, use three main tools to study inequality: measurement of poverty, compute the Gini coefficient (which measures inequality for all of us), and compare the income or wealth of the rich and very rich to the rest of us. On all three measures, the stats are grim, shockingly so.
For a Gen-Yer looking to the future, the potential can be grim: one person out of 30 can expect to move from anywhere in the bottom 40% to anywhere into the top 20% in the next 10 years.
One of my coffee cronies, a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, retired vice-president from Deluxe Check Corp, the multi-billion dollar firm, called my attention to the article. Even he thought the consequences and future for the younger generations are grim unless government and his tribe of Republicans make some significant policy changes.
Hope you'll read the article. It's scary. Coggins also explains how the inequality deniers come up with their ideas. And, oh yeah, Coggins' stats are correct and so is his conclusion. The rich are definitely getting richer, and the poor (and the middle class) are definitely getting poorer.