Republicans Create Opportunity? Yeah, Right.

Republicans constantly proclaim that inequality is the price of prosperity. If things are more unequal, there’s more incentive–and crucially, opportunity–for people to better themselves. Everyone benefits from that.

Except it’s not true.

Let’s think about Joe the Plumber, who made $40K in 2006 but would like to buy the plumbing business he works for–for a quarter of a million dollars. It hardly seems likely (absent a windfall lightning-strike of media attention). But what about his kids? Maybe they’ll be able to climb the ladder and do better than their dad has.

That’s the real measure of opportunity and the American dream. And the American dream is failing:


What are your chances of having the same income as your parents? (Left scale.) They’re way better if you live in Britain, Italy…or the U.S. Want your kids to climb the ladder? Try Denmark, Norway, or Canada.

Norway and Canada are second and third for both median and top-decile income. So there’s plenty of mid-level and top-end opportunity there for aspiring Joe the Plumbers. And bottom-decile folks are significantly better off than in the U.S.

I’ve pointed out before that wealth equality correlates strongly with greater prosperity, especially over the long term. Give tens of millions of Americans a place to stand, and they’ll move the world.

Quarterly-report-driven Republicans will happily point out some cherry-picked, transitory short-term gains from enriching the rich. But which party is building America’s future?

How dare these people call themselves conservatives?