Krugman, Brooks Bicker; Both Are Right
David Brooks and Paul Krugman often bicker on the editorial pages of the New York Times and on their blogs. This week was no exception. Brooks got things started by claiming that we are focusing on the wrong inequality.
The zooming wealth of the top 1 percent is a problem, but it’s not nearly as big a problem as the tens of millions of Americans who have dropped out of high school or college. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the 40 percent of children who are born out of wedlock. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the nation’s stagnant human capital, its stagnant social mobility and the disorganized social fabric for the bottom 50 percent.
But highly educated Americans have by no means been immune to income stagnation and growing economic insecurity. Wage gains for most college-educated workers have been unimpressive (and nonexistent since 2000), while even the well-educated can no longer count on getting jobs with good benefits. In particular, these days workers with a college degree but no further degrees are less likely to get workplace health coverage than workers with only a high school degree were in 1979.
So who is getting the big gains? A very small, wealthy minority.
Okay, I get that Brooks is trying to obscure the importance of the concentration of wealth in a very small minority. But he’s right to also focus on the growing cultural, social, educational, and financial gap between the more educated and the less educated. These are both problems and we ignore either one at our peril.Click here for reuse options!
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