Over the last thirty years, income inequality in America has grown as wealth has become more concentrated in the hands of fewer Americans. There is doubt among a growing number of people in our country whether the basic American premise still holds true -- that if you work hard and are responsible, no matter the circumstances of your birth, you will have the chance to pursue your dreams and ambitions.
At its core, this is the problem the 99 percent and Occupy movements want solved. Their vocal demonstrations have sparked a conversation in this country about what should or should not be done to accomplish this goal. That is a very positive development. America will no longer be America if we allow it to become a nation of haves and have-nots.
Just starting the conversation, however, will not be enough. Nor will the problem be solved by believing we can simply realign the income distribution by compelling one group of Americans to give their money to another. We must look closely at the policies most responsible for leading us to this economic position. Then, we must make specific proposals for how to change those policies and reverse the current economic trends. Five broad areas of policy offer a basis for us to begin this process.
First -- Infrastructure and education. We need an education and work force development system in this country that does a much better job of giving our workers the skills they need to find jobs in our increasingly competitive global economy. We also need to rebuild and construct the next generation of roads, bridges, mass transit, airports, broadband and energy infrastructure that will be necessary for us to compete in that world as well.
Second -- We must continue to reform our financial services industry. Too much investment capital is going into derivatives and other so-called exotic financial instruments and not enough is being made available to small, new and innovative businesses that could actually grow our economy and create jobs.
Third -- Reform our tax code. Warren Buffet is right. There are too many loopholes in the current code that undermine the ability of governments to raise the revenue they need to balance their budgets, and also allow people and large corporations who can afford high priced accountants to pay less in taxes than many middle class Americans and small businesses.
Fourth -- Get the federal debt and deficit under control. Uncertainty about the future financial strength of this country is a major hindrance, holding down our economy. We need to reduce spending and increase revenue to get us on a path to greater fiscal health.
Fifth -- We should promote policies that reward hard work and personal responsibility. And we need to recognize that individual choices that do not reflect these values have also contributed to the overall problem.
This list is far from exhaustive. The precise policies needed and the exact answers in those areas will take time and robust public debate to discern. But the conversation has begun. We should all welcome the opportunity to engage in the debate and work to find policies that move us more toward equal opportunity in our nation.