Fight social immobility, not ‘inequality’
With long-term unemployment historically high and still-pervasive economic insecurity in the wake of the Great Recession, it is understandable that many Americans have grown more concerned about the nation’s levels of inequality. Too many families struggle in poverty, too many workers have given up on finding fulltime work, and too many young adults have graduated into a weak economy that will lower their lifetime earnings. …
While upward mobility has not diminished over time, and while it has not been hurt by rising income inequality, it has nevertheless been stuck at unacceptably low levels for decades. If past patterns hold, 70 percent of poor children today will fail to make it to the middle class as adults. Four in ten will be mired in poverty themselves in midlife.
These are not the kind of odds those of us solidly in the middle class would accept for our children. The American Dream is in poor health if children who grow up in the bottom can aspire only to fill the same sorts of jobs as their parents hold.
The challenge is to identify real solutions to the problem of limited upward mobility. Fifty years after Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of war on poverty, we should establish a second front against immobility. Attacking inequality, however, is unlikely to mitigate either problem.
Attacking “inequality” by seizing wealth only weakens the engines of economic prosperity and further cripples the poor by worsening dependence. Far better is for those who know how to show those who do not. God’s justice is established as his people teach others how to walk in his ways. Do not blame the desperate poor for looking to the government when God’s people have ignored their cries. If you want to foil rabble-rousers and petty tyrants, show the poor where to find abundant life. If you want to help the poor, multiply justice.