Oct 22

Income Inequality Impairs The American Dream Of Upward Mobility

Debate 3 Large

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Income inequality has been on the rise for decades. In the last 30 years, the wages of the top 1% have grown by 154%, while the bottom 90% has seen growth of only 17%. As the rungs of the economic ladder move further and further apart, conventional wisdom says that it will become much more difficult to climb them. Opportunities for upward mobility—the American dream—will disappear as the deck becomes stacked against the middle class and the poor. But others see inequality as a positive, a sign of a dynamic and robust economy that, in the end, helps everyone. And contrary to public opinion, mobility has remained stable over the past few decades. If the American dream is dying, is it the result of income inequality? Or is disparity in income a red herring where more complex issues are at play?

  • Hanauer90px

    For

    Nick Hanauer

    Entrepreneur & Venture Capitalist

  • Shierholz90px

    For

    Heidi Shierholz

    Labor Market Economist, Economy Policy Institute

  • Conard90px

    Against

    Edward Conard

    Visiting Scholar, AEI & Former Partner, Bain Capital

  • Winship90px

    Against

    Scott Winship

    Fellow, Manhattan Institute


    • Moderator Image

      MODERATOR

      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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Hanauer90px

For The Motion

Nick Hanauer

Entrepreneur & Venture Capitalist

Nick Hanauer is one of the most successful entrepreneurs, investors and managers in the Northwest with over 30 years of experience across a broad range of industries. He has managed, founded or financed over 30 companies, creating aggregate market value of tens of billions of dollars, including Amazon.com, Aquantive Inc., Insitu group, Market Leader, and, most recently, the venture capital firm Second Avenue Partners. He is actively involved in a variety of civic and philanthropic activities and has served a broad range of civic organizations, including The University of Washington Foundation and The Seattle Alliance for Education. He currently serves as a director for The Democracy Alliance and as a board advisor to the policy journal Democracy. Hanauer has published two national bestsellers, The True Patriot (2007) and The Gardens of Democracy (2010), with co-author Eric Liu. In 2012, his TED talk on income inequality went viral after TED, citing it as overtly partisan, declined to publish it on their website.

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Shierholz90px

For The Motion

Heidi Shierholz

Labor Market Economist, Economy Policy Institute

Heidi Shierholz joined the Economic Policy Institute in 2007. She has researched and spoken widely on the economy and economic policy as it affects middle- and low-income families, especially in regards to employment, unemployment, labor force participation, compensation, income and wealth inequality, young workers, unemployment insurance, and the minimum wage. Shierholz is a coauthor of The State of Working America, 12th Edition; is a frequent contributor to broadcast and radio news outlets, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and NPR; and is regularly quoted in print and online media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Huffington Post. She has repeatedly been called to testify in Congress on labor market issues. She is a member of the board of directors of the DC Employment Justice Center. Prior to joining EPI, Shierholz worked as an assistant professor of economics at the University of Toronto.

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Conard90px

Against The Motion

Edward Conard

Visiting Scholar, AEI & Former Partner, Bain Capital

Edward “Ed” Conard is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of the New York Times bestseller Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong (2012).Since the publication of his book, he has made over 100 television appearances and debated major economists, politicians, and journalists including: Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Reich, Austan Goolsbee, Barney Frank, Fareed Zakaria, and Jon Stewart. In 2012, he was one of Google’s ten most searched authors. Prior to writing his book, Conard was a senior managing director at Bain Capital, where he headed the New York office and was responsible for the acquisitions of large industrial companies. He previously worked for Wasserstein Perella, an investment bank that specialized in mergers and acquisitions, and Bain & Company, a management consulting firm, where he headed the firm’s industrial practice.

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Winship90px

Against The Motion

Scott Winship

Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Scott Winship is the Walter B. Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Previously a fellow at the Brookings Institution, his areas of expertise include living standards and economic mobility, inequality, and insecurity. Earlier in his career, Winship was research manager of the Economic Mobility Project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and a senior policy advisor at Third Way. His research has been published in National Affairs, National Review, The Wilson Quarterly, Breakthrough Journal, and Real Clear Markets, among other outlets.

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Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion

With economic growth funneled to those at the very top, the rest of America has suffered from stagnant and falling incomes. According to EPI, “in 2010, the bottom 90 percent received only 55.5 percent of all income and held just 23.3 percent of all wealth"

As inequality grows, “the consequences of an accident of birth” become bigger. Only those at the top will have the resources to invest in their children’s education and overall development.

Economic growth depends on consumption by the middle class, and as more and more Americans fall behind, the more volatile the economy becomes.

Against THe Motion

Gains by some do not mean losses for others. While the wealthiest have benefited the most from economic growth, this point does not cancel out the fact that the living standards of most Americans are better now than they were in the past few decades.

Economists have found that despite increases in inequality, social mobility has not changed since the 1970s. In fact, research shows that there is no relationship between high inequality and low mobility.

A thriving economy needs income inequality. It’s the wealthiest among us who take on risk and invest in the innovation that benefits everyone.

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