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收入不均怎么办?

Adam Lashinsky 2013年09月17日

数据显示,目前美国收入最高的10%人群拥有50%以上的美国总财富,占比达到此类数据有统计以来的峰值,其中甚至包括20世纪30年代美国经济大萧条前分配极度不均的时期。普遍认为,这个问题没有立竿见影的解决之道,只有教育是解决问题的关键。

    这些天,我开始越来越多地思考美国收入不均的问题。《纽约时报》(New York Times)上周三刊登了一篇令人吃惊的文章,援引数据显示,美国收入最高的10%人群拥有过半的美国总财富,占比达到此类数据有统计以来的峰值,甚至包括20世纪30年代美国经济大萧条前分配极度不均的时期。

    有关这一问题的数据并不缺乏。《财富》(Fortune)杂志总编苏安迪在最近的编者话中就重点关注了收入不均问题。从公平角度,他提到了一种疯狂的想法:所有这些财富掌控在少数人手里并不是问题;其他每个人依然能够幸福。苏安迪(我的老板)反驳了这一荒谬的逻辑。我也拒绝接受。(苏安迪的佳作是《财富》杂志付费阅读文章。您需要付点钱才能阅读这些内容。但它值得一读。)

    今年夏天,我读了乔治•派克的书The Unwinding。此书文笔引人入胜,但说到底令人忧心,书中常常是对穷人窘困状况的直白描写。我之所以对这本书感兴趣,部分是源于派克在《纽约客》(New Yorker)杂志上描述的“极度关注金钱的硅谷文化”,不怎么看重构成好政府的优秀品质,也不看重通过产品改善社会福祉。

    不过,谈到要做些什么,似乎谁都没有什么好建议。加州可能很快就会上调最低工资。这样的努力很有价值,但不能改变根本问题。美国早已大幅加税,美国财政部长杰克•卢上个月在加州接受笔者采访时谈到了这一话题。这也只是向收入公平迈进的一小步。思考过这个问题的很多人都同意,提升教育是解决问题的关键。没有立竿见影的解决方法。

    具有讽刺意味的是,如果深挖数据,就会发现股市财富是造成收入不均的主要因素。我之所以觉得讽刺是因为,广泛参与股市曾被视为是美国中产阶级的自我救赎之路。这是共同基金行业兜售给我们的理念,然后它们都完了。我的老朋友、现就职于《纽约时报》的前同事乔•诺切拉就写过一本书,更多人将能参与到曾经是富人专享的股市,这是多好的一件事啊。(乔老兄:如果入市不如意呢?)

    我不打算在这篇文章中给出解决方案。我一直在问这样一个问题:我们该怎么做?(财富中文网)

    

    I find myself thinking more and more these days about income inequality. TheNew York Times published an astounding article Wednesday citing data that shows that America's top 10% of breadwinners had the largest share of overall wealth (more than 50%) since such stats were first collected. This includes the era of extreme inequality before the Great Depression.

    There is no shortage of data points about the problem. Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer focused on inequality in his editor's desk essay recently. In the interest of fairness, he cited the crazy school of thought that it doesn't really matter how few people hold all the wealth; everyone else can still be happy. Serwer (my boss) rejected this nonsensical line of reasoning. So do I. (Andy's fine essay is behind Fortune's pay wall. You'll have to share a little bit of your wealth with us to read it. It's worth it.)

    This summer, I read George Packer's gripping, if ultimately unsatisfying, book, The Unwinding, an often heartbreaking description of the plight of the have-nots. I was interested in Packer's book partly because of his description in the New Yorker of a Silicon Valley culture that is so focused on money that it sees value in little else, including the merits of good government, or even making products that improve society.

    When it comes to what to do, however, no one seems to have any good suggestions. California seems poised to raise its minimum wage. That's probably a worthy effort, but it won't change the underlying problem. We've already dramatically raised taxes, a topic Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew addressed in my interview with him last month in California. This too is merely an incremental step toward equality. Most people who've thought about this agree that improving education is a key to solving the problem. No quick fixes there.

    The irony here, when you dig into the data, is that stock market wealth is the primary explanation for inequality. I find that ironic because broad participation in the stock market was supposed to be the salvation of the American middle class. That's the message the mutual fund industry sold us, for example, before all that went to hell. My pal and former colleague Joe Nocera, now at the New York Times, literally wrote the book on what a great thing it was that more people were going to be able to participate in the stock market, once the preserve of rich folks. (Hey Joe: How about riding this one hard?)

    I'm not ending this little screed with a solution. I am asking the question: What should we do?

    

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