How to think about income inequality and economic opportunity
Plus: Parental choice and the midterms; Democrats and Republicans unite on an opioid fix; and a last chance to join FREOPP in D.C. on November 10
Six problems with the way we think about income inequality: Heading into the midterm elections, the Pew Research Center released new polling data indicating that a majority of Americans from both parties describe themselves as “very concerned” about the prices of food, energy, and housing. Rising prices are bad for businesses, families, and individuals and, as FREOPP documented earlier this year in our Inflation Inequality Indices, they have a compounding effect on the poor. That’s why FREOPP President Avik Roy argues that considering the difference between gross income and disposable income—and the effect the rising cost of living has on disposable income—is essential if we are to craft tax, regulatory, licensing, and other reforms that ensure people have the resources they need to get ahead. In the same paper, Avik identifies five other problems with using income inequality as a lens for improving economic opportunity.
→ Income inequality alone may be inadequate to understanding the challenges facing low-income Americans, but that doesn’t mean the wealth divide isn’t important. In his latest appearance on What Bitcoin Did with Peter McCormack, Avik emphasizes that if we want a more politically and economically equal society, we need a dynamic economy that maximizes social mobility.
Power to the parents: More data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) dropped this week, and once again the news was not good. Math and reading scores of 4th and 8th grade students declined sharply between 2019 and 2022, and the percentage of students who could not perform basic skills grew. FREOPP Senior Fellow Dan Lips dug into the NAEP results and reporting, which confirm that schooling disruptions caused significant harm for children who were at risk of falling behind before the pandemic.
What can we do about it? Earlier this year, Dan wrote in National Review that parents are angry about widespread school closures and about public school teaching policies and management. With national public school enrollment down by 1.4 million students in 2020 alone and K-12 education featuring prominently in midterm campaigning, America is at a pivotal moment for effective education reform. Dan’s recommendation: Avoid the distractions of trying to legislate teaching on culture-war topics and focus on expanding parental choice—the only way to address most parents’ primary concerns about K-12 education. And he offers specific guidance for state and federal policymakers on how to do just that.
The NOPAIN Act unites Republicans and Democrats on opioid policy: Since 1999, America’s overdose epidemic has claimed more than a million lives. FREOPP Visiting Fellow Mark Dornauer observes that the scale of the problem, which affects both rural and urban areas and Americans at all levels of wealth and income, makes opioid legislation a unique opportunity for bipartisan cooperation even in a deeply divided Congress. One piece of legislation that might become law? The Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (NOPAIN) Act, which aims to reduce the number of patients who become addicted to opioids after surgery by rewarding physicians for prescribing non-opioid treatments instead of opioids after medical procedures.
Last chance to register for FREOPP’s November 10 conference: Freedom & Progress 2022 is less than two weeks away! Time is running out to join us on Thursday, November 10, and gather with others who believe that freedom is humanity’s greatest engine of prosperity and progress.
It will be a day packed with discussions about how to deploy liberty to help everyone move ahead. Plenary session topics include “Why Experts Failed Us During the COVID-19 Pandemic” with Jay Bhattacharya and “The Case for Optimism About America” with Joe Lonsdale. And concurrent sessions throughout the day will tackle inflation and the rising cost of living, energy policy, what to do about higher education and health care, and more. The day’s agenda and a link to register are available on FREOPP’s website.
Thanks for keeping up with FREOPP, and have a great weekend!
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