SOTU Preview: Obama Will Conflate Inequality with Mobility and Push Failed Fixes

I’ve got a new
column up at The Daily Beast, which previews tonight’s State of the
Union address and President Obama’s insistence on
conflating increasing income inequality with supposedly weak
economic mobility.

From the article

Tonight, don’t expect President Obama to cite any research
showing that mobility has remained constant. Instead, expect him to
echo his December speech, which was filled with lines about “a
dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that
has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain—that if you
work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.”

From a political perspective, the erroneous but strategic
conflation of inequality and mobility makes obvious sense. After
all, if mobility is as alive and well as it has been in the
post-war era, then the sense of urgency the president needs to sell
any legislation is largely undercut. As important, constant
mobility rates also make a mockery of the president’s
long-preferred strategy of redistributing income from the top of
the income ladder down to the lower rungs….

Instead, get ready for a long list of calls to maintain and
increase many programs that have been in place since before Obama
took office: extending unemploymentbenefits (without paying for
them by, say, cutting defense spending), making it easier for
people to buy or stay in homes whose prices are inflated by
government policies, and increasing access to higher education in
ways that continue to increase prices far higher than the rate of
inflation. Pump more money into a broken K-12 education system
whose per-pupils costs rise as results stay flat (certainly the
president won’t call for giving parents and children the right to
choose their own schools).

In short, expect Obama to invoke income inequality and supposed
declines in upward mobility as a way of maintaining a status quo
that has managed to increase inequality without affecting mobility

Read the article,
which documents research showing that
economic mobility in the United States has remained constant since
the 1950s.

from Hit & Run

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