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Letter: Solving the Inequality Problem

To the Editor:

I recently attended a Dartmouth College debate between two well-known and highly respected economists, Greg Mankiw and Jared Bernstein, on the topic of income inequality. I also teach a course on this topic. What I found particularly interesting was that, despite the fact that each has a very different philosophical, ideological and political stance on public policy, there was also a notable measure of common ground. In addition to debating the question, “What is the problem?” each economist also addressed the “What is the solution?” And on at least four substantive policies they were in basic agreement in how policymakers might address this problem. First, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, an already highly successful program. Second, reduce or eliminate corporate tax loopholes. Third, institute a significant carbon tax. And finally, increase support for education at all levels. And had there been more time, my guess is that there would have been even more overlap and agreement.

While none of these policies is particularly radical, in combination they would at least begin to address this critical issue. But sadly, both agreed also that the political polarization and gridlock in Washington (described by Mr. Bernstein as standing for “Dysfunctional Congress”) make such legislation impossible. Yet, if these two persons of very different ideological persuasions can agree, wouldn’t one think that possibly our elected representatives could also find some comment ground?

Dream on.

Jim Wilson