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The Boston Globe

Ideas

The word

And then inequality happened

How Obama’s language left no one to blame

The United States is a place of wide income inequality. By recent estimates, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans take home over 22 percent of pre-tax income and hold more than 34 percent of wealth. This month, fast-food workers in 100 cities protested the wages that confine them to poverty; on Wall Street, meanwhile, investment banking interns average more than $70,000.

So for many it was heartening that, on Dec. 4, President Obama gave a major speech positioning inequality as a significant issue both morally and economically. Obama described three myths prevalent in the debate on the subject. First, he addressed the belief that this issue affects only a mostly black and brown minority of Americans. Next, he assured listeners that ensuring growth and tackling inequality are complementary goals. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he pushed back on the idea that government cannot do anything to remedy the problem.

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