Paul Krugman (left) comments that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have strongly opposed today’s rising income inequality. While acknowledging that income inequality isn’t necessarily a racial issue, Krugman discusses the fact that the economic rise of African Americans, starting in the 1960s, stopped two decades later–and relates it to the finding that economic mobility is now less likely in America than in other Western countries. From “How Fares The Dream?”:
...King — who was campaigning for higher wages when he was assassinated — would surely have considered soaring inequality an evil to be opposed.
...In the 1960s it was widely assumed that ending overt discrimination would improve the economic as well as legal status of minority groups. And at first this seemed to be happening. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s substantial numbers of black families moved into the middle class, and even into the upper middle class; the percentage of black households in the top 20 percent of the income distribution nearly doubled.
The Times recently reported on a well-established finding that still surprises many Americans when they hear about it: although we still see ourselves as the land of opportunity, we actually have less intergenerational economic mobility than other advanced nations. That is, the chances that someone born into a low-income family will end up with high income, or vice versa, are significantly lower here than in Canada or Europe.
And there’s every reason to believe that our low economic mobility has a lot to do with our high level of income inequality.
...Mitt Romney says that we should discuss income inequality, if at all, only in “quiet rooms.” There was a time when people said the same thing about racial inequality. Luckily, however, there were people like Martin Luther King who refused to stay quiet. And we should follow their example today. For the fact is that rising inequality threatens to make America a different and worse place — and we need to reverse that trend to preserve both our values and our dreams.