Jim Tankersley has a piece in the WaPo suggesting that President Obama’s actual policy agenda doesn’t meet his aspirations when it comes to reducing inequality and poverty. I raised a similar concern here, though my focus was more on the budget constraints than the specific policies.
Tankersley suggests that the President’s current econ team is more interested in policies that reduce deficits, like tax reform, than those that strike at market-driven inequalities. But what’s missing from his piece, at least IMHO, is a discussion of what such measures would look like. Frankly, it’s harder to craft a set of policies to attack inequality, poverty, middle-class income stagnation than to attack the deficit. The latter calls for spending cuts or tax increases. The former…well, outside of Keynesian fiscal policy in recession and monetary policy (which, if you’re an administration economist is the Fed’s purview, not yours) there’s not a lot that economists’ agree on (ok…more education…but everybody’s for that).
I’m crunched for time so I’ll just tick some things off the top of my head, but every one of these ideas deserves a lot more ink not to mention more attention from those who would flap gums about a stronger middle class.
–Full employment, and if markets won’t provide jobs, there’s tons of work for folks to do fixing our public infrastructure (e.g., FAST!)
–Manufacturing policy, both offence (forward looking investments in areas where markets will be short) and defense (fight back against non-tariff barriers like currency manipulation)
–Better access to pre-K and college (attendance and completion) for economically disadvantaged
–Unions (e.g., a level playing field to organize)
–Minimum wage, labor standards (overtime rules, correct worker classification, paid sick leave)
–Work supports (e.g., EITC, child care subsidies)
–Guaranteed health insurance coverage
–Better financial oversight, tax on financial transactions (the goal here must be to reduce the economic “rents” claimed by this over-sized sector)
–Amply funded gov’t sector to accomplish much of the above.
More to come…on plane and battery’s dying.