Massive Inequality Didn't Just Happen—It Was Engineered by Conservative Government Policies
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In other words, Congress and the president have decided to craft budgets that lead to tens of millions of people being unemployed or underemployed. As Jared Bernstein and I point out in our new book, high levels of unemployment put downward pressure on workers' wages, especially those in the bottom third of the labor force. This means we have a federal budget that limits growth and employment in a way that redistributes income upwards.
There is a much longer list of ways in which the government has acted to redistribute income upwards over the last three decades. I have a fuller discussion in my book, The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive.
But the key point is that inequality didn't just happen; it was the result of government policy. That is why people who actually want to see inequality reduced, and for poor and middle class to share in the benefits from growth, are not likely to be very happy about President Obama's speech on the topic. His comment about the government being a bystander ignores the real source of the problem. Therefore it is not likely that he will come up with much by way of real solutions.