INVOKING THE SPIRIT of Teddy Roosevelt, President Obama traveled to Osawatomie, Kan., on Tuesday to underscore two related problems plaguing America: growing income inequality and mounting strains on many of the poor and middle class.
Although it prompted the inevitable accusations about class warfare, Mr. Obama’s focus on income inequality is justified. “The rungs on the ladder of opportunity,” as he said, “have grown farther and farther apart.” A new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) makes clear that the gap between rich and poor is growing throughout the industrialized world.
Republicans who deny the phenomenon or its ill effects would do well to recall the admonition of Mr. Obama’s predecessor. “We have an obligation to help ensure that every citizen shares in this country’s future,” George W. Bush said in 2007. “The fact is that income inequality is real. . . . And the question is whether we respond to the income inequality we see with policies that help lift people up or tear others down. The key to rising in this economy is skills, and the government’s job is to make sure we have an education system that delivers them.” That is closer in spirit to Mr. Obama’s message in Kansas than to the anti-government rhetoric of this year’s Republican candidates.