In a recent issue of The Economist, President Barack Obama set out four major economic issues that his successor must tackle. As he put it:
“… restoring faith in an economy where hardworking Americans can get ahead requires addressing four major structural challenges: boosting productivity growth, combating rising inequality, ensuring that everyone who wants a job can get one and building a resilient economy that’s primed for future growth.”
It’s hard to quibble with the items on the president’s list. Slow productivity growth, rising inequality, inadequate employment and the lack of sustainable economic growth all are important problems that a President Clinton or Trump will have to face.
But just how important are these issues? Does one, above all, deserve to be at the top of the next president’s economic to-do list?
Rather than rank these items, it is probably better to follow the advice of American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity prayer: We should courageously change what we can while accepting what we cannot.
And inequality is the only item on that list that a president can influence in a significant way. It also happens to be, in my mind, the most important one – critical for solving the other three problems as well as preventing the disappearance of the middle class.