David Brooks weighed in on the income disparity issue on October 31. He did not deny the movement of wealth to a smaller percentage at the top; as with so many apologists, he downplayed the significance and magnitude. He also identified the other disparity, which he names the Red Inequility:
Then there is what you might call Red Inequality. This is the kind experienced in Scranton, Des Moines, Naperville, Macon, Fresno, and almost everywhere else. In these places, the crucial inequality is not between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent. It’s between those with a college degree and those without. Over the past several decades, the economic benefits of education have steadily risen. In 1979, the average college graduate made 38 percent more than the average high school graduate, according to the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. Now the average college graduate makes more than 75 percent more.
He believes this Red Inequality is much more important, and has a longer-term negative impact on our country. He states that what we actually need is to close the opportunity gap by improving our capacity to get more people through higher levels of education.
He is right. But if we were to ask him whether we, as a society, should pony up more dollars to get more people through college, he would probably hesitate.
And there, he would be wrong. Because money – and the heavy financial burden necessary for students to complete college and beyond – is one of the greatest roadblocks to that educational opportunity he so eloquently defends.
A roadblock the 1% never has to worry about.