About those claims regarding extreme inequality and absolute equality

by Ryan Streeter on November 5, 2016. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Real Clear Policy asked David Midland at CAP and me to write two competing perspectives on inequality. Mine is here, his is here.

We also published responses to each other. It’s a nice virtual debate, and anyone who’s follows the inequality and mobility issue would probably enjoy reading it.

I just have one comment on his response to my article. He says I imply that “progressives support absolute equality of conditions and that extreme inequality is necessary to make the economy work.” That’s a bizarre claim. I do no such thing. And on the second point, I actually argue the opposite.

On the first point, I only argue that there are 3 views typically advanced by people who want to reduce inequality, and that only the third (cronyism) has any real policy merit. I never imply or say that progressives want absolute equality of conditions. In fact, at the opening, I say that most economists and most Americans (which presumably includes a lot of progressives) don’t have a problem with at least some level of inequality.

On the second point, I have no idea where he gets the idea that I think extreme inequality is necessary to make the economy work. In fact, by claiming that there isn’t really a very strong link between growing incomes at the top and stagnating incomes in the middle, I’m arguing the opposite. In a way my entire article is premised on the observation that the very rich’s wealth gains and the income levels of everyone else aren’t related in ways that affect mobility very much. The problem is that lower and middle income people’s incomes aren’t growing as we’d like, and the very rich don’t have much to do with this.