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Wages, Economic Real Talk, and Piketty for Dummies

“To measure overall inequality, you have to think about both pre-tax and after-tax inequality,” writes Zachary A. Goldfarb in the Washington Post’s “Wonkblog” this week. The post mostly concerns Obama’s inequality-reduction record, but it also brings up a point that’s easy to gloss over: that tackling inequality isn’t all about tax policy. Increased wages and improved educational opportunities matter (measurably!) too.

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In response to Amazon Kindle data that suggests that Capital in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty’s 700-page inequality blockbuster, might be the most unread bestseller of all time (because, well, it’s a 700-page inequality blockbuster), columnist Nick Kristof breaks the subject down into five digestible nuggets. Among these: economic inequality in the United States has worsened considerably, and has become a politically destabilizing force. While Kristof introduces nothing terribly groundbreaking here, he offers a useful reminder: “Inequality and lack of opportunity today constitute a national infirmity and vulnerability—and there are policy tools that can make a difference.”

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As satirist John Oliver brought up in a segment from his popular HBO show that went viral last week, American optimism about economic opportunity might well be holding equality back. This week, Eduardo Porter similarly points out in The New York Times’ “The Upshot” blog that an American perception gap—that is, misjudgments about inequality—might account for hesitancy to vote for redistributive policies.

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Finally, Boston Globe columnist Tom Keane invokes US Census data to flesh out the last four decades’ labour market shifts that have partly led inequality to the fore. One measure toward reducing it: better pay.

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