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April 29, 2012

Mike Bloomberg: It's "education inequality," not "income inequality" (Really?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Mike Bloomberg is a brilliantly successful businessman, who tends not to dither making decisions. As mayor, such certainties have served him both well and poorly.

Indeed, he is a man so suffused with confidence that he could say, as he did April 26 at the Barclays Center press conference, that the arena was built for hockey, even though exactly the opposite is true. Or, choosing not to know--or find out--how many full-time equivalent jobs would be provided by the 2000 arena jobs promised, he got testy, rather than answer a reasonable question.

Bloomberg on inequality

And Bloomberg could offer a theory about inequality in this country, one that certainly would become controversial should he follow the entreaties of columnist Thomas Friedman and reconsider running for president as an independent.

"Will the people without a great skill-set have jobs that are high-paying?" Bloomberg soliloquized at the press conference, responding to questions about low-wage jobs. "Probably not. In this country, we talk about an income inequality. It is not an income inequality. It is an education inequality. And the example you should look at is: why does it take a two-breadwinner family today to be middle class, where 40-50 years ago, it was a one-breadwinner family that could do exactly that."

"And the reason is all in education," Bloomberg continued. "If you look, other countries are starting to have great schools, great universities, great public schools. And they are becoming much more productive at a much greater rate than we are doing in America. We stopped improving our productivity 20-30 years ago, and the education system started going downhill, and certainly not growing and improving as fast as the rest of the world. And that's really what you see out there, and it's a great challenge, and the answer is to go back to the basics, education, and in the meantime getting people the experience they need, and working."

Hold on. Doesn't the United States have the best universities in the world? Isn't the issue a little more complicated? Hasn't productivity been doing pretty well? Maybe the issue, as economist Dean Baker points out, is the distribution of the gains from productivity growth.

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Posted by steve at April 29, 2012 10:44 PM