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Hullabaloo


Monday, November 27, 2017

 

Some additional points of attack on income inequality

by digby




This article challenges the idea that the above changes are solely attributable to trade, immigration, unions, or the rise of information technology. Instead:


Almost all of the growth in top American earners has come from just three economic sectors: professional services, finance and insurance, and health care, groups that tend to benefit from regulatory barriers that shelter them from competition.

The groups that have contributed the most people to the 1 percent since 1980 are: physicians; executives, managers, sales supervisors, and analysts working in the financial sectors; and professional and legal service industry executives, managers, lawyers, consultants and sales representatives.

Without changes in these largely domestic services industries — finance, health care, the law — the United States would look like Canada or Germany in terms of its top income shares.

[...]

A new book, “The Captured Economy” by Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles, argues that regressive regulations — laws that benefit the rich — are a primary cause of the extraordinary income gains among elite professionals and financial managers in the United States and of a reduction in growth.

This year, the Brookings Institution’s Richard Reeves wrote a book about how people in the upper middle class have shaped both legal and cultural norms to their advantage. From different perspectives, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Reich and Luigi Zingales have also written extensively about how the political power of elites has undermined markets.


Problems cited by these analysts include subsidies for the financial sector’s risk-taking; overprotection of software and pharmaceutical patents; the escalation of land-use controls that drive up rents in desirable metropolitan areas; favoritism toward market incumbents via state occupational licensing regulations (for example, associations representing lawyers, doctors and dentists that block efforts allowing paraprofessionals to provide routine services at a lower price without their supervision).

These are just some of the causes contributing to the 1 percent’s high and rising income share. Reforming relevant laws can make markets more efficient and egalitarian, and in contrast with trade, immigration and technology, the political causes of the 1 percent’s rise are directly under the control of citizens.
Interesting, no? It kind of turns the whole argument as we've known it on its head by suggesting that trade, immigration, unions and technology aren't the real problem but rather a small group of elites in some areas we might not have previously understood who are getting special dispensation. We knew about Wall Street,of course. But doctors and dentists, land use and patents are areas that are spoken on in think tank world but haven't made it into the maintream. Likewise anti-trust which is also gaining momentum as a major are of interest in this debate.

I haven't read these books so I don't profess to have the necessary understanding of the details to evaluate these claims (and I might not be able to anyway) but it's interesting. If these are things that can be reversed using regulatory power they might just be easier to do than we think when (and if) we survive this horrible moment. (I'm not saying they are easy, but easier.)

Something to think about anyway.


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