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Income Inequality In The U.S.: How Much Should We Be Concerned?

Thursday April 2012


Jared Bernstein Senior Fellow, Center on Budget Policy and Priorities
Scott Winship Fellow, Economic Studies, Brookings Institution

Moderator: Reihan Salam, Policy Advisor, e21: Economic Policies for the 21st Century
Welcoming Remarks: Howard Husock, Vice President, Policy Research, Manhattan Institute

There is income inequality in the United States—that is beyond debate and has always been the case. Whether inequality is increasing, however, is a hotly contested question. So, too, is the question of the relationship between inequality and the American Dream of upward economic mobility. On the Left, themes sounded by the Occupy Wall Street movement have been taken up by such leading lights as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who asserts that the “rungs” on the income ladder “are moving ever farther apart.” Others see fatal flaws in such analysis. For the Hoover Institution’s Thomas Sowell measures of inequality “are simply transient snapshots” and do not imply that there “are enduring classes of people” stuck at the bottom.

Has inequality become a problem? Does it undermine the American Dream? Is it still possible to move up in our society, to better oneself in the classic mold of Benjamin Franklin and Horatio Alger? Join us for a debate between two of the most respected voices on the issue. From 2009 to 2011, Jared Bernstein was the chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and a member of President Obama’s economic team. Scott Winship holds a Ph.D. in social policy from Harvard University and is the former research manager of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ economic mobility project.