Friday, August 30, 2013

Dreaming of Equality of Opportunity, Not Outcome

In the United States, dreams have a funny way of becoming reality. That’s what makes the American dream so powerful. It’s renewed, and usually achieved, in each new generation.
It’s been more than 50 years now since Martin Luther King Jr. described his goal of equality of opportunity for all Americans. It was “a dream deeply rooted in the American dream,” he explained, a dream based on “the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”
In many ways, the U.S. has achieved that dream and moved on to others. Segregated water fountains and restaurants are a thing of the past, and laws ensure equal treatment in hiring. But in his speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, President Obama warned that things are getting worse. “The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class, reduced the bargaining power of American workers,” he said.
To be sure, Americans haven’t achieved economic equality. Obama warned, “We’d be told that growing inequality was the price for a growing economy, a measure of the free market—that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame.”
But opportunity, not outcomes, should be our concern. And, Obama’s straw man aside, the way to raising incomes is so simple it almost goes without saying: Get more people working, and remove barriers to upward mobility.

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