Feature

A problem bigger than inequality

“Is inequality really the country’s most pressing problem?” No—joblessness is.

Ezra KleinWashingtonPost.com

“Is inequality really the country’s most pressing problem?” asked Ezra Klein. No—joblessness is. Inequality has become the central focus of the American Left, sparking the Occupy Wall Street movement, and Bill de Blasio’s New York mayoral victory. President Obama recently declared inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” But while the vast wealth gap between the top 1 percent and everyone else stirs people’s passions, it’s not the cause of the problems facing Americans who are struggling. Today, our economy “seems mostly back to normal,” yet millions of people have been out of work for years. Others cling to low-wage jobs and get no raises. As economist Larry Summers recently pointed out, it’s beginning to look as if the U.S. economy no longer is the job-creation engine it once was; almost all the economic growth of the 1990s and 2000s was connected to bubbles. If that’s so, merely imposing higher taxes on the rich will not fix what ails us. The goal of policymakers should be “full employment,” through stimulus programs and economic policies that create what Americans most need: jobs.

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