Intelligence Squared Debate: Oct. 22, 2014

Income Inequality Impairs The American Dream Of Upward Mobility

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14 comments to Intelligence Squared Debate: Oct. 22, 2014

  • James M. Kelly

    I watched the debates with an initial feeling that income inequality did impair upward mobility. I do not think, however, that the word dream was adequately dealt with. The middle and upper middle class used to be the engine of our economy in terms of purchasing power and potential for advancing through education. For a great number of reasons, none of which include income inequality, the middle class has been gutted. This is not news to those who lost what they had or settled for jobs that they are overqualified for. The American Dream exists in the aggregate American mind and it is not likely to be felt intact if all most people see around them is bleak compared to their parents’ generation. The Dream may have been a driver of change and to consider it only in terms of dollars in the pocket misses the point that it has much more to do with position on a social ladder. The ship may be rising, but the ladder to economic safety is sinking.

  • Hank Truslow

    Thanks Bill Weber ! Manufacturing jobs create opportunity to advance socially and economically. It seems that most people today would rather demonize those who do not agree with them rather than work together on real solutions.

  • David F. Willis

    One of the things we all saw in older people when we were the younger people is that they seemed to have little interest in discussing important issues and thoughts.

    They were too busy focusing on their sore backs or worrying about the moles destroying their lawns.

    We scoffed.

    But now that we are they, you might want to bear this in mind.

    I am learning something new every day, forgetting something old at ten times that speed, and with my hearing, bladder and vision, am not likely to sit still long enough to attend one of your forums.

    I applaud you for continuing to be you.

    But I have to finish the tractor shed we are building, put the gardens to bed, practice my part for the Verdi Requiem we will sing in the winter, and drive to Dartmouth Hitchcock to find out what’s happening with my back and legs.

    So if you don’t mind, I’ll pass on the web’scussions.

    That aside, I hope all is great with you.


  • Steve Danetz

    I think that Steve Buck and Steve Howard have expressed my views.
    I truly enjoyed watching the debate – altho I think there was more talk about cures for our problems rather than addressing the stated issue – does income inequality affect the ability to advance.
    We are all still discussing, in one way or another, trickle down economics as stated many years ago by Laffer. It did not work when he propsed it and it still does not work for the vast majority of Americans

  • Henry Clay Childs

    I invested most of my savings, years ago, in Green Energy. I foolishly ignored the story of Nicola Tesla, among many others, and put my faith in our living in a relatively enlightened state that could overcome the influences of the petroleum industry and pharmaceutical industry, among others, that so effect our lives, both political and private.

  • I did not get to see the debate, but in the comments I have read, the basic problem is being ignored. The basic problem we experience in the USA (and many other countries/states) is the diminishing creation of wealth. Wealth, for the most part, can only be created by manufacturing, mining and agriculture. As we move on this century, what is it going to take for business and government to realize the basics of wealth creation and stop the slide to continued deficit spending, taxing and “incentives” that really amount to Corporate welfare?
    Here in upstate NY we worry about gas drilling and think banning it will create a better and safer environment. The lack of job creation causes government to try the usual gimmicks to “create” jobs with only more people entering the non productive public service sector.
    I believe that it is not possible to have a pristine environment in a populated area of natural beauty (such as the Finger lakes) when so much poverty and desperation exists.
    I have written extensively about gas drilling in NYS and the local antis who already have a source of income from retirement or elsewhere.
    I guess at my age it is a case of “I’m alright Jack”, but what about the future generations?

    Bill Weber, Keuka Lake, NY

  • Nikolaas van der Merwe

    I just want my classmates to know that this debate interests me, but it would not make much sense for me to participate on this particular topic. I live in South Africa, where income inequality is much more of a problem that in the US.

  • Steve Buck

    Spot on Steve!

  • Steve Howard

    I was not able to listen to this debate, but I did look at Mr. Laffer’s “preview ” of the discussion. The views epressed in Art’s glib, supercilious, malicious, and largely disingenuous essay are probably shared by many of our classmates. Mr. Laffer is just an articulate spokesperson for that point of view–a view I couldn’t disagree with more. I wrote in my essay for our 50th reunion, and I believe today, that, “Unless we have a significant redistribution of wealth, vast numbers of our people will be without minimal levels of food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare that, in my view, should be regarded as basic human rights of all people.” Mr. Laffer’s assumptions that low income levels are the result of people’s unwillingness to work and that high income earners will work less if they are taxed at higher rates are laughable on their face (except that it’s not funny that some people actually believe that.)

  • Art Mann

    One easy way to reduced income inequality would be to go back to the original economic organization and policies of our republic.we finance this country on tariffs. Now that we have what we call free-trade. Our workers and Midland come managers are expected to compete against low-wage people from all over the world. So, in the United States, those with capital and ownership, I can import products from all over the world to take advantage of those cheaper products.meanwhile those jobs in the United States that used to make those products disappear.those of us who are forced to compete in this world cannot afford to increase wages without the risk of Braxley going out of business. We have had a trade deficit that exceeded $500 million a year since the turn-of-the-century.with that trade deficit being that high why is it such a mystery as to the resulting income inequality that we now see in the United States?

  • Steve Hudson

    So, if you are separated from some of your hard-earned wealth in order to benefit those in need, it will only encourage their continuing unemployment, perpetuating the vicious circle of poverty. Perhaps this will lead them to wanting to vote. Welcome to Republican Politics 101.

  • Chip Neville


    Here’s a quote from your piece:

    “Whenever governments take from those who have more, those takings reduce those people’s incentives to work, leading them to produce less. Likewise, by giving to those who have less, governments provide those people with an alternative source of income other than working, causing them also to work less. The theorem is as simple as it is non-partisan. Any income redistribution reduces total income, and total income redistribution reduces total income to zero.”

    Just let me say that your “theorem” is as fallacious as is the proof you offer, except — excuse me — you don’t offer any proof, certainly not in the mathematical sense even though you coin your argument as a “theorem.” (Hint: Theorems have proofs, hand waving arguments do not. I know, I am a mathematician.)

    Personally, when I started out in academia and wasn’t making much money I worked very hard, despite all the jokes about lazy college professors. And later on, when I made much more money, I worked equally hard. Of course, a contrary example of one is like the saying in medical research, “one mouse is no meeses.” But there are plenty more examples: the women who changed bedpans in hospitals but used to not be able to afford to go to those hospitals (before Obama care), but who then got the chance to get a bit of education and got a better hospital job, and who work equally hard today, etc., etc.

    And I don’t think you quite got Piketty’s argument either because what you seem to be talking about with your simplistic “theorem” is earned wage income. What Piketty spends much of his book talking about is income from interest and investment of capital, and, as Piketty points out repeatedly, the distribution of capital is far more skewed than the distribution of wage income. You see Art, some of the rest of us have actually READ Piketty even though we are not economists like you.

  • Hank Truslow

    Those of us who think the government has the ability to create the upward social and income mobility that they seem to want are delusional. The government over time has created these “inequalities” by literally driving manufacturing jobs off shore by creating an impossible environment for domestic companies to compete. Toyota would be building the Prius in California, a state that needs real economic expansion, if the tax rate were 18%. The jobs we have in this country are largely retail or service related and provide fewer hours and benefits and certainly fewer opportunities to advance. We cannot expect to see future prosperity by cutting each others hair. For our Country’s sake we need to establish policy that will bring the jobs back to our shores. Foreign companies would love to have manufacturing here in their largest market and be closer to their customer Let’s hope that the minimum wage does not become the living wage!

  • Steve Buck

    Trickle down economics is crap. Just look at people our age. If we are financially comfortable, or in the case of some of our classmates, very comfortable, we don’t spend the last dollar of income. There are only so many houses, cars, whatever that people need or want. On the other hand, someone who’s living paycheck to paycheck will spend 100% of the extra income.

    Sever income inequality, which we now have, and is worse than in the Gilded Age of the robber barons, is wrong. The Laffer Curve is laughable.

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