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from The Great Debate:

Here’s what it will take for Americans to start getting pay raises

Demonstrators rally to raise the hourly minimum wage for fast-food workers at City Hall in Seattle

What will it really take to give America a raise?

A lot of well-credentialed policy experts have been writing nonsense about why Americans can’t be paid more.

One bogus story is that young people and working moms (whatever happened to working dads?) love the new “flexible” economy of Task-Rabbits working odd jobs. Or they’re Uber drivers or Starbucks clerks, marking time until their economic adulthood begins.

American University students walk among recruiting booths during a career job fair at American University in WashingtonSome of these people imagine themselves to be high-tech entrepreneurs-in-waiting. Recent college grads who hope that they are just one killer-app away from financial success are the well-educated equivalent of inner-city kids hoping for a tryout in the National Basketball Association. For every one who makes it, there are hundreds who don’t.

I have a British friend with a son in his 30s. The lad is having a hard time gaining economic traction. When I saw my friend recently, I inquired: “How’s William doing?”

from The Great Debate UK:

The benefits of a Scottish Yes vote

'Yes' campaigners holding Scottish Saltire flags gather for a rally in George Square, GlasgowThe list of catastrophes that would befall Britain in the event of Scottish independence continues to grow. If you believe the latest reports then money is being withdrawn from cash points around Scotland at a rapid clip - the next thing will be a plague of locusts.

Of course a vote for independence is not going to be a walk in the park. The issue of what currency Scotland is going to use remains a mystery, the market is still pondering the possibility of global investors ditching the rest of the UK on the back of such political uncertainty, which could cause a financial crisis akin to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Aside from economic questions, the UK’s standing in the world could be damaged if there is a win for the Yes camp.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Paul Ryan changes delivery but not direction

By Stephanie Rogan

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own. 

Paul Ryan has written a book, just like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama before him. Unlike those of his Democratic rivals, though, the U.S. congressman and former vice presidential candidate’s is less memoir than campaign manifesto. Ryan’s fiscal prescriptions are familiar, but it’s also obvious he is trying to find a broader audience for them. Though it’s tempting to dismiss “The Way Forward” as just the musings of another presidential wannabe, the book’s title probably accurately reflects the notion that its contents will guide the Republican strategy in the years to come.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Karl Marx was right — at least about one thing

 A board displays the Dow Jones industrials average after the close at the New York Stock Exchange

Confidence in the global economy is steadily improving, as shown in the financial markets’ bullish behavior and confident comments from companies and policymakers over the past few weeks. Though these columns have argued in favor of a robust recovery, when investors get uniformly bullish, the pessimistic case deserves attention.

Many distinguished economists believe that the current improvement in global conditions is just a blip. They insist that the world faces years, if not decades, of “secular stagnation.” How seriously should we take them?

from Lawrence Summers:

Inequality is about more than money

Graduates from Columbia University's School of Business hold a sign as they cheer during university's commencement ceremony in New York

With Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the 21st Century, rising to number 1 on best-seller lists, inequality has become central to the public debate over economic policy. Piketty, and much of this discussion, focuses on the sharp increases in the share of income and wealth going to the top 1 percent, .1 percent and .01 percent of the population.

This is indeed a critical issue. Whatever the resolution of particular numerical arguments, it is almost certain that the share of income going to the top 1 percent of the population has risen by 10 percentage points over the last generation, and that the share of the bottom 90 percent has fallen by a comparable amount. The only groups that have seen faster income growth than the top 1 percent are the top .1 percent and top .01 percent.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Brazil’s toughest tests lie off the pitch

By Dominic Elliott 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Michael Reid’s astute new book has a stark warning: the country of samba, sex and soccer is teetering on a knife-edge. “Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power” explains why protests against this year’s World Cup are turning increasingly violent. Reid, a journalist for The Economist, persuasively urges a return to the broad liberal consensus that served Brazil so well between 1994 and 2006.

from The Great Debate:

Elites focus on inequality; real people just want growth

kochs & warrenThe economic debate is now sharply focused on the issue of income inequality. That may not be the debate Democrats want to have, however. It's negative and divisive. Democrats would be better off talking about growth -- a hopeful and unifying agenda.

Democrats believe income inequality is a populist cause. But it may be less of a populist issue than an issue promoted by the cultural elite: well-educated professionals who are economically comfortable but not rich. There’s new evidence that ordinary voters care more about growth.

from Nicholas Wapshott:

The surprise success of Thomas Piketty

The surprise success of the French economist Thomas Piketty’s income disparity blockbuster Capital in the 21st Century has forced battlelines to be drawn in the world of political economics.

Piketty’s unremarkable contention, after having crawled through two centuries of data, is that the inequitable distribution of wealth in Western society has now led to an intolerable state of affairs. The super-rich have arranged matters so that almost all of a nation’s economic growth is delivered into their bank accounts.

from The Great Debate:

The increasing significance of race

Behind every Supreme Court decision is a sociology of ordinary life. Opinions reveal the justices’ view of what’s what in the world, how people act and why things change.

Justices probably prefer that we focus on their legal analyses, but we can glean the sociology behind their assumptions. Last week, judicial world views spun into interplanetary conflict when the court voted to affirm Michigan’s vote to bar all consideration of race, gender, ethnicity, color or national origin in public decision-making, including in state college admissions.

from Felix Salmon:

The Piketty pessimist

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 2.12.10 PM.png

This chart comes from the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Risks Report, which came out just before Thomas Piketty’s book started becoming the topic of discussion in economic and plutocratic circles.* You can clearly see what you might call the rise of inequality-as-an issue: before 2012 it’s nowhere to be found, but since then it’s been consistently in the top spot. My prediction is that in 2015, thanks to Piketty, the WEF will start talking less about income inequality, and more about wealth inequality.

The big question, though, is whether inequality is really much of a risk at all. After all, from the point of view of the average billionaire WEF delegate, inequality would seem to look much more like a reward.

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