Last month, President Barack Obama hailed income inequality as “the defining challenge of our time.” Politico says nervous Democrats are “convinced” the issue will help stave off midterm election losses to Republicans.
On Wednesday, however, Obama’s own pollster, Joel Benenson, told reporters at a Democratic gathering he believes “the attention on inequality is a bit overhyped.”
Benenson said the widening gap between rich and poor is “a real issue in America”; however, CS Monitor says Obama’s pollster “doesn’t think Americans resent people at the top who have done well–as long as the playing field is level.”
Benenson’s comments echo recent polls that find income inequality fails to resonate with a majority of Americans. The recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked Americans: “When it comes to reducing income inequality between the rich and the poor, do you want to see the government more involved than it currently is, as involved as it currently is, less involved than it currently is, or not involved at all in this issue?” Just 37% said the government should be “more involved,” and 46% responded that government should be less or not involved at all.
According to Gallup, just 4% of Americans believe the gap between rich and poor is the most important problem facing the country.
Experts say a host of micro and macro factors explain the accelerated gains of America’s top earners. A new study by an international team of economists led by University of Pennsylvania’s Jeremy Greenwood finds that “assortive mating” behaviors–choosing to marry within one’s own educational or income strata–have widened the gap between lower and upper income earners. And a new book by two MIT professors titled The Second Machine Age concludes that income inequality’s “main driver is exponential, digital, combinatorial change in the technology that undergirds our economic system.”