Inequality For All

Some would say that numbers don’t lie, while others recognize how to lie with statistics. Therefore, it is important that we pay attention to the story behind the numbers. Our unemployment rate is down to 6.7%, the lowest in five years. However, there were 74,000 jobs added to public and private payrolls. The question then is why did the unemployment rate go down? Economists expected 195,000 jobs to be created, but realized numbers were less than half of the expectation, and the unemployment rate fell by .3%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in December that 347,000 fewer people were in the “civilian labor force” than in November. Even though only 74,000 new jobs were created in December, 143,000 more people said they were working. Thus the combination of a smaller labor force and a few more people working is why the rate went down.

The big number is the 347,000 people that were no longer measured because they were not actively seeking work. They are what is called discouraged workers, and this is not a a good sign. The economy may be getting better but not for everyone. Thus fewer good jobs means less opportunity, and less opportunity means greater inequality in our country.

I am beginning to identify several WSJ writers that are my favorites. Peggy Noonen, a solid journalist with centralist ideas, O’Grady, and lastly William A. Galston. They have a conservative leaning, but are very pragmatic in their solutions to our societal problems. Galston’s work this morning demonstrated this reality in the article “Where Right and Left Agree on Inequality.”

Generally his points are well developed. Using Paul Ryan as an example of conservative understanding of inequality, “the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life.” Ryan was reflecting the philosophy of Abraham Lincoln who in 1861 stated, “the principle objective of American government was to afford to all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.” Galston builds on this by stating, “As always, President Lincoln chose his words with precision. An unfettered start – without legal impediments – is necessary but not sufficient. A fair chance takes more, which is why the man who freed the slaves also established our system of land grant colleges.”

This, in my opinion, is a recognition that a belief in equality of opportunity, not equality of a result, is not enough. The market cannot provide a natural setting for equality of opportunity. Therefore, “the government holds some responsibility for creating the ground for that equality of opportunity, which is not a natural condition.” What the government’s role is where the debate needs to occur!

The facts state, “Today, a boy born in the bottom 20% of our income scale has a 42% chance of staying there as an adult.” Also, the “United States is third from the bottom of advanced countries in terms of upward economic mobility.” Marc Rubio stated that, “70% of children born in poverty will never make it to middle class,” and it appears that there is more upward mobility in Canada then in the US.

Those with a more liberal bent, will agree with these numbers. Robert Reich is traveling the United States telling anyone who will listen that there in “Inequality for All,” but the question is what do we do about it?

It is easy to say something needs to happen, but actually realizing some sort of strategy is important. This needs to be attacked from several different levels. The education of our children in all localities is a must. This means not only the suburbs, but inner city schools need to improve. As a society, we need to recognize the power of the written word. Our adults need to return to the activity of reading. Telling our children that learning isn’t necessary will only be a detriment to our societal development.

We need to develop a stronger trade school system. Many trades have jobs that re not being filled because people cannot get the training they need to be masons, electricians, and plumbers. And we need to keep college affordable. You see this problem of inequality is not the result of one thing; it is a result of a system. This system needs to be explored to determine where the biggest bang for the buck can be gained. There are many variables associated with this system, and finding the solution can occur in many different ways.

It appears there may be a desire to debate what needs to happen. This debate appears to be moving in a positive direction instead of the usual dysfunctional zero sum argument, which is a good thing.

And that is my thought for the day,

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