Krugman, Brooks Bicker; Both Are Right

Posted by | November 5, 2011 21:37 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

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.

Krugman countered.

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.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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