The study of inequality has been going on forever. To give you an idea, the index used to measure how unequal the distribution of income is -- the "Gini Coefficient" -- was invented a century ago. So, why the sudden interest? Why worry now about something that has been the fodder of academics, politicians, and the media for so long?
The class bias of American politics has not only cost us our democracy. It has also cost us our jobs, our health, and our security. For years, the recovery was crippled by the politics of austerity, as a bipartisan coalition took a butcher's knife to the public sector, and as balanced budgets took precedence over basic needs.
The myth of fluid upward mobility blinds us to how stacked our system has become against the aspirations of the less well-off, thereby enabling an elite to capture every larger shares of income, wealth, privilege, and control over government while those below receive relatively smaller shares, face fewer opportunities, and command increasingly less control.
According to former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers -- who is emerging as a key economic advisor to Hillary Clinton -- the big political challenge in addressing economic inequality is not to embrace "a politics of envy." No, Mr. Summers, it's not the politics of envy. It's the politics of responsibility.
The care we give to buying a vacuum cleaner is absent when we consider the test scores released to the news media by the states and local school districts. And, from those test scores the news media, politicians, and the general public reach simplistic conclusions about the effectiveness of public education.