In an article in Boston Review, Paul Osterman notes that income inequality in the United States is much greater than in northern Europe, and that the situation here could improve if our government focused on raising and enforcing labor standards, pushing companies to invest in training, and allowing labor unions to effectively advocate for workers.
Sounds pretty simple and fair, but don’t tell that to the corporatists and legislators who, with something like religious zeal, oppose all efforts by the gov’mint to intervene in the jobs market.
Using tables of statistics to make his points, Osterman writes:
… Clearly the United States is the outlier. It is not surprising that the U.S. poverty rate substantially exceeds that of other developed nations.
Europeans achieve [lower poverty rates] through a combination of higher minimum wages, stronger unions, and more egalitarian social norms. Economists often argue that more egalitarian wages reduce incentives to work and that a higher minimum wage increases the cost of labor and therefore encourages unemployment, so the European job market should suffer as a result of lifting the bottom. Does it? In fact, among both women and men, the fraction of the “prime age” (25–54 years old) population that works is higher in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands than in the United States.
Read the whole article then ask yourself whether American apathy regarding our high poverty rate stems from principled objection to government intervention, or simply from misinformation about how government works in democracies where income inequality isn’t nearly as shameful as in America.