Bring back middle class

A high-income minority (say, the U.S. hedge-fund industry) is getting bigger pieces of the economic pie, while the slices of ordinary Americans shrink. That inequality worries Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor and current Berkeley professor. In Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, he sees this trend postponing recovery from the Great Recession. Our income distribution problem weakens the buying power of the working class, and the super-rich don’t spend their pie slices. Together, that prevents the broad-based prosperity the nation had from 1947 to 1975. Reich outlines some sensible policy fixes: increasing the marginal tax rate for upper-income earners and expanding income supports for low- and middle-income workers. Policy gains would be twofold: Our economy will realize efficiencies to offset the idle capacity that reigns now, and improved efficiency can also cut income inequality. The resulting better standard of living can deflate the swelling politics of anger.