Alan Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers … gave a very informative speech on inequality last week that should have received more press than it did. Much of it was stuff that inequality mavens already know, but he had one striking result that was what I suspected but hadn’t seen demonstrated: a clear negative relationship between inequality at a point in time and intergenerational social mobility.As everyone who discusses politics with me knows, huge pet peeves of mine are Obama’s refusal to discuss specific facts, including statistics, in speeches to the public—and his failure even to speak to the public at all on substantive issues. Exceptions are ridiculously rare. But the campaign is about to start, and—who knows?—he might actually deign to occasionally speak in specifics and cite facts (including statistics) in order to refute the Republican mantras of anti-Keynesianism and anti-progressive tax codes. Assuming, of course, that he agrees with his own Council of Economic Advisers chairman about the importance of the statistics, and recognizes the salience of those statistics with the public.
Below is what he dubs the Great Gatsby Curve…. As he shows [using graphs], America is both especially unequal and has especially low mobility. But he also argues that because we are even more unequal now than we were a generation ago, we should expect even less social mobility going forward.
Another pet peeve of mine is the silly meme of political pundits, such as Maureen Dowd, in which they repeatedly describe Obama as professorial—as if professors teach their classes by speaking in clichés and generics.
But even if Obama continues his personal policy of refusing to argue Democratic economics and tax policy and to use statistics to support the arguments, Democratic congressional candidates hopefully will be smart enough to mention the important statistics and discuss them. I expect that Elizabeth Warren will be a model for them in this. Hopefully they’ll take note and follow her lead.