Jesuits across the Country Call for Immigration Reform with a Path to Citizenship
Rick Malloy, S.J., is a Jesuit priest and cultural anthropologist. He is the author of _A Faith That Frees: Catholic Matters for the 21st Century (2007) and _Being on Fire: The Top Ten Essentials of Catholicism_ (2014), both published by ORBIS Books
During the past two generations, democratic forms have coexisted with massive increases in economic inequality in the United States and many other advanced democracies. Moreover, these new inequalities have primarily benefited the top 1 percent and even the top .01 percent. These groups seem sufficiently small that economic inequality could be held in check by political equality in the form of “one person, one vote.”Bonica, McCarty, Poole and Rosenthal argue that politics can be an effective tool to restore economic fairness — that government can, and should, correct imbalances the market produces, providing for those who cannot compete, ensuring opportunity for those who can and blocking those who would appropriate to themselves what the authors see as an excessive share of our national prosperity.
oversell the relation between public policy and income inequality – the political sphere influences the playing rules for the free market, but U.S. income inequality growth is, at the core, being driven by very strong market forces for much longer than U.S. income inequality has been in the public discourse.Looking at the issue from another angle, Acemoglu makes the case that the authors spend too little time on what he sees as the most important reason that political solutions are not likely to work: the global economy has become even more competitive. Capital is internationally mobile, and corporations and their owners will move to other countries when faced with what they see as excessive taxes and regulatory burdens:
With the technological changes and the more globalized economy we live in, the cost of stemming the rise in inequality has also increased. A cross-country perspective shows this very clearly. Several European countries, including Germany and Sweden, which have well-functioning democracies and strong social democratic parties, have also reformed their labor market and product market institutions, leading to greater inequality over the last two decades. A cross-country perspective also indicates that the factors the paper mentions can at most be a portion of the puzzle.The rise of inequality in Scandinavian social democracies, according to Landy, suggests that explanations based on phenomena unique to the United States, like the disproportionate influence of money in political campaigns, are inadequate:
Globalization and changes in technology have been a boon to owners of capital, allowing them to decrease their labor costs, boost productivity and, in many cases, replace workers’ jobs entirely.Sawhill also argues that “income inequality is growing for reasons that have little to do with politics,” including “changes in household composition, more single parents, like marrying like, and wage inequality produced by the increased demand for well-educated workers and the failure of the supply of educated workers to keep pace.”
tax, transfer, and regulatory policy can and should push in the right direction, but it would take large political forces to keep from exacerbating inequality; halting let alone reversing market-based inequality growth of the past three decades would require policy actions beyond the conceivably viable.Fieldhouse notes that politically untenable policies include the adoption of full-employment monetary and fiscal policies — in other words, a massive jobs program requiring a large expenditure of tax dollars is not in the offing.
the split within the Democratic Party in the late 1960s between “traditional,” blue-collar Democrats and the more radicalized New Left. The Democratic Party’s newfound focus on women’s rights, gay rights and affirmative action alienated a substantial number of older, white liberals. The modern-day coalition of social conservatives and the business community would not be as strong as it is without that schism, which allowed the Republican Party to breed resentment by racializing what were formerly working-class economic issues.Fieldhouse, in turn, maintains that Democrats have “done a better job promoting ascriptive identity policies and politics than those of general social welfare in recent decades.”
My own reading of the evidence is that most of the very wealthy get that way by making substantial economic contributions, not by gaming the system or taking advantage of some market failure or the political process.In “It’s the Market: The Broad-Based Rise in the Return to Top Talent,” Steven N. Kaplan of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Joshua Rauh, of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, argue that talent is unequally distributed through the population and that this is reflected in the inequality of rewards. They suggest that
One explanation that has been proposed for rising inequality is that technical change allows highly talented individuals, or “superstars,” to manage or perform on a larger scale, applying their talent to greater pools of resources and reaching larger numbers of people, thus becoming more productive and higher paid.Malcolm Gladwell’s explanation for inequality in “Outliers: The Story of Success” bridges, to some extent, the arguments of left and right. He makes the case that it is hard work – famously, 10,000 hours of hard work – that leads people to gain abilities that then result in the acquisition of disproportionate resources. Gladwell notices, however, that a remarkable degree of good luck is needed to realize the gains from even well-honed skills.
Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don’t. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are.Gladwell adds this twist to the debate:
It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.”Inequality appears to liberals and many others to be palpably wrong. But conservative and liberals often find themselves in agreement that inequality in and of itself may not be the issue — it’s the way it is deepening and spreading and the small size of the group to whom the benefits are accruing that worries people most. Inequality exists in democracies and non-democracies alike; it clearly stems from multiple causes. But “the question for public policy,” as Greg Mankiw puts it, is “what, if anything, to do about it.”