A Simple Fix for Our Massive Inequality Problem

Everyone knows that we are again living in a Gilded Age.

More controversial is the question of what should be done about it. We seem stuck in the same policy equilibrium we have been in for decades, with conservatives denying that there is a problem and pushing policies that would make it even worse, liberals emphasizing the need for education and skills development, and leftists pushing for a unionized labor market and social-democratic welfare state.

Some of these ideas are good ones, which would make life better for vulnerable people. But they’d do little to directly target inequality in our society or to capture all the benefits that economic fairness brings.

The solution is simpler than it seems. There’s a tried and tested way, within the system we have now, of giving everyone a share in the investment returns now hoarded by the wealthy. It’s called a social wealth fund, a pool of investment assets in some ways like the giant index or mutual funds already popular with retirement savings accounts or pension funds, but one owned collectively by society as a whole. One that paid dividends not to the few, or even just to the shrinking middle class lucky enough to have their savings invested, but to everyone.

It may be our best chance to stop a decades-long trend of rising wealth inequality that has only accelerated since the Great Recession. According to new data released by the Federal Reserve, the collapse of the housing bubble and the ensuing financial crisis caused the net worth of virtually all families, rich and poor, to drop sharply between 2007 and 2010. But during the post-2010 economic recovery, the fortunes of the wealthiest grew rapidly while nearly everyone else’s lagged behind.

– The New York Times

Read the full article here.