Rebuilding An Opportunity Society: The Roles of Policy and Power Jared Bernstein Center on Budget and Policy Priorities email@example.com Prepared for “Work and Livable Lives” Conference St. Louis, MO 2/27/12
The Model • Normal times: Growthreduced poverty, rising living standardsopportunitiesmobility • Inequality Wedge: Growth[ineq wedge diverts*]poverty and wage stagnationless access to opportunitydiminished mobilityconcentrated influencemore inequalityvicious cycle*See Appendix A (last slide) re factors behind higher inequality. 2
Model, cont…• Feedback loop from unequal growth to income concentration, and…• Power concentration• Blocks policies that would ameliorate ineq’s impact (unions, min wg, full employment, manufacturing policy, progressive taxation, amply funded gov’t, safety net, assets!)• Promote policies that exacerbate inequality (trickle down tax policies, deregulation of financial markets, campaign finance)• VICIOUS CYCLE 3
Evidence, Part 1: Inequality Hits Middle Incomes and Poverty• Inequality has gone up and that has contributed to higher poverty and stagnant growth in middle-incomes. Full employment 4
“Sticky” pov rates 5Source: US Census Bureau, and Mishel et al, State of Working America
Evidence #3: Mobility Has Gone Down a Bit and is Relatively Low in US Sources: Katherine Bradbury, 2011; Miles Corak, 2011 12
Evidence #4: Inequality and Political InfluenceMartin Gilens, Affluence and Influence, forthcoming: 90th 90thWhen the preferences of low and middle income Americans differ from those of thewealthy, “government policy appears to be fairly responsive to the well-off and virtuallyunrelated to the desires of low and middle income citizens.” 13
• Bartels (2005): …Senators appear to be considerably more responsive to the opinions of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle-class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect on their senators’ roll call votes. 14
Income and Elections, ParticipationSources: 1, Campaign Finance Institute (Senate is my calculation of moving avg); 2-4 Gilens, forthcoming 15
Policy Changes Implied by the Model• Regressive tax changes, trickle down, favor capital incomes over labor (see next two slides)• Deregulate financial markets• Privatize social insurance• Eroding labor standards (min wage, labor protections)• Diminished unionization; opposition to collective bargaining• Pro outsourcing• Monetary policy favoring low inflation over full employment• Diminished gov’t commitment to education• Eroding safety net• Anti-Keynesianism; pro austerity• Let-it-rip campaign finance• Smaller gov’t outlays as share of GDP 16
CBO: The equalizing effect of transfers declined over the 1979–2007 period primarily because the distribution of transfers becameless progressive. The equalizing effect of federal taxes also declinedover the period, in part because the amount of federal taxes shrankas a share of market income and in part because of changes in theprogressivity of the federal tax system.
Lowering Top Marginal Tax Rate Associates with Greater Ineq, NotFaster Growth Source: Piketty, Saez, Stantcheva, 2011 18
Problems with the Model• Causality: inequality clearly associated with these developments, but few causal links… – BUT random assignment finds lasting (and “sleeper”) effects• Timing: Some of this stuff (test score gaps, “enrichment goods”) was happening before inequality took off – BUT greater income concentration exacerbates these relations• Mobility: It hasn’t changed much, if at all. – TRUE but it hasn’t gone up and appears to have worsened for subgroups. 19
Problems with Model, cont…• The top 1% includes both the Koch bros and George Soros – TRUE but the former seem better organized to perpetuate model than the latter are to reverse it. Also, self-fulfilling prophecy of gov’t failure.• Growth “exogenous” in model – Maybe it’s not, which is all the more reason to fix this; rich area of research.• This is all ridiculously obvious: “Them that’s got shall get”…“There are two things important in politics…” – TRUE but the fact that something’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not a problem! 20
How Do We Fix This??!!• Campaign finance reform• Efficient gov’t sector (inefficient gov’t also reinforces cycle)• Clear-eyed look at what’s coming and how that relates to role of gov’t (demographics, climate, innovation, global connectedness)• Much more intensive research and outreach agenda re trickle down, deregulatory failures• Political dysfunction should scare people (debt ceiling)• Remember compromise?• Research is important but equally important is how we explain, disseminate it• Fairness, common sense, YOYOs vs WITTs• What else? 21
Appendix A: Main Causes of Rising Inequality• Increased globalization, particularly import penetration from low-wage producers;• Diminished unionization, as unions are associated with a more equitable distribution of earnings;• Higher unemployment, which like less unionization, reduces the bargaining power of many in the workforce;• Ongoing technological change, which increases the relative demand for more highly educated workers;• The decline in the real value of the minimum wage;• Regressive changes in the tax code, particularly tax cuts to high marginal income tax rates and rates on non-labor income;• Financial deregulation and “innovation” and the increased “financialization” of industry: the increase of the financial sector as a share of economic activity and the associated growth of income sources, such as capital gains, that are concentrated at the top of the income scale. 22
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