Obama Administration Chief Economist: Talking About Income Inequality Is Not ‘An Issue About Envy At All’

CEA Chairman Alan Krueger With President Obama

Yesterday, 2012 GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney dismissed those concerned with the nation’s growing income inequality (which may be worse than the inequality in Ancient Rome) by saying such concerns are “about envy.” “I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like. But the president has made it part of his campaign rally,” Romney said. “It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it will fail.”

However, there are real negative consequences to income inequality. Studies have shown that inequality can severely restrict economic growth. Today, ThinkProgress asked Alan Krueger, chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, to respond to Romney’s assertions. Krueger replied by noting that addressing income inequality is “not about envy at all,” but about ensuring that all segments of the population share in economic growth:

The trends that have taken place in the U.S. over the last three decades are particularly of concern to economists and others. We’ve seen a steady decline, erosion, in the size of the middle class. That’s not good for the economy. That’s not good for all segments of American society. And I think some of [the government’s] policies have exacerbated that…There are certainly legitimate policy issues, and as the President’s economic adviser, it’s certainly something that we’re focused on. I don’t think this is an issue about envy at all. I think we’d like to see all segments of society do well. The President has said ‘when all Americans do well, America does well.’ The accumulating evidence suggests that the erosion of the middle class has been bad for the economy.

Watch it:

According to Krueger, the shift in income inequality over the last three decades is the equivalent of moving $1.1 trillion of income from the 99 percent to the top 1 percent every single year. This has led to a severe shrinking of the middle class:

Romney though, would prefer that these facts stay in “quiet rooms,” rather than be discussed by lawmakers and the public.