The Corner

Should Republicans Ignore Income Inequality?

In an earlier post, Ramesh gently critiques the mission statement of Jeb Bush’s new Rise to Rise Super PAC for suggesting there is some mix of policies that could “solve” the “income gap.” Ramesh: “It can’t credibly be promised that any mix of conservative policies would reduce the income gap, let alone ’solve’ it (whatever that would mean). I don’t think that promise is politically helpful, either. All the public-opinion evidence I’ve seen suggests that most people are much more concerned about middle-class living standards than about the ratio between those living standards and those of the rich.”

I agree the Republican focus should be on upward mobility and inequality of opportunity, as well as middle-class income stagnation. A blockbuster study last year found that while it hasn’t gotten any harder to climb the opportunity ladder over the past 40 years, it hasn’t gotten any easier either. Nor is upward mobility in America better than other advanced economies such as Canada or Sweden. Praying that your kids have more opportunity you did is at the heart of the American Dream.

Yet I would advise Republicans not to ignore income inequality (not that I’m saying Ramesh is recommending that). To the extent high-end inequality has risen, it increases the penalty imposed by barriers to mobility such as poor schools, pricey college, and onerous occupational licensing schemes. And some kinds of income inequality, in particular, are worth fighting. We should want more billionaire entrepreneurs. But that’s not everybody at the top. As I wrote for NRO awhile back:

Inequality has increased across advanced economies. Macro factors such as globalization and technology deserve most — but maybe not all — of the “blame.” Big Government loves to pick winners and losers in the private sector. Some lucky ducks owe their place in the 1 percent or 0.1 percent or 0.01 percent to federal favoritism. Conservatives shouldn’t mind at all when value-creating innovators and entrepreneurs strike it rich while crony capitalists do not. The precious tax breaks and subsidies that go to rent seekers, such as those in the agriculture and alternative-energy sectors, should get the ax. Sorry, Big Sugar and Big Solar.

At its core, such an anti-cronyism, anti-inequality agenda would use competition and markets to fight Washington’s natural bias for elite and entrenched interests. 

Does Jeb Bush want to “solve” — right, whatever that means — income inequality by attacking crony capitalism? We’ll see.

Most Popular

White House

Another Warning Sign

The Mueller report is of course about Russian interference in the 2016 election and about the White House's interference in the resulting investigation. But I couldn’t help also reading the report as a window into the manner of administration that characterizes the Trump era, and therefore as another warning ... Read More
Film & TV

Jesus Is Not the Joker

Actors love to think they can play anything, but the job of any half-decent filmmaker is to tell them when they’re not right for a part. If the Rock wants to play Kurt Cobain, try to talk him out of it. Adam Sandler as King Lear is not a great match. And then there’s Joaquin Phoenix. He’s playing Jesus ... Read More

What’s So Great about Western Civilization

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter), One of the things I tell new parents is something that was told to me when my daughter still had that ... Read More
White House

The Mueller Report Should Shock Our Conscience

I've finished reading the entire Mueller report, and I must confess that even as a longtime, quite open critic of Donald Trump, I was surprised at the sheer scope, scale, and brazenness of the lies, falsehoods, and misdirections detailed by the Special Counsel's Office. We've become accustomed to Trump making up ... Read More

Supreme Court Mulls Citizenship Question for Census

Washington -- The oral arguments the Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday will be more decorous than the gusts of judicial testiness that blew the case up to the nation’s highest tribunal. The case, which raises arcane questions of administrative law but could have widely radiating political and policy ... Read More