Economic mobility is the ability of people to move up in the economic system, to see their income increase, allowing them to live in freedom without the government benefits that Sean Mcelwee talks about in his column in The New Republic today. They can pay for those things themselves and decide where they get those services because they have the resources and the options to choose how to get the services that they need to live well.
I agree that it is a good thing that Republicans, especially House Republicans and a few Senate Republicans, are talking about social mobility and are finally putting some serious proposals on the table as they relate to the Earned Income Tax Credit. Even though I wouldn’t say this is the cure-all to solving the income gap problem, a term I prefer over income inequality, I wouldn’t just throw out everything they are talking about and put it in the garbage either.
When you talk about the income gap and, more broadly, poverty in America, you must first decide whether you believe in social mobility, because you can’t be in favor of creating more public benefits and telling people in poverty that the taxpayers will take care of them and on the other hand believe in social mobility and empowering people to be able to take care of themselves so they can move up the economic ladder on their own. That means providing education, job training, and work experience so people at the bottom can acquire the skills needed to become socially mobile.
For people to become socially mobile, they need additional skills to get themselves another good job, perhaps in a different field. They need job training and education, and people on welfare who aren’t working and have paper-thin resumes, if that, also need job experience, even at a entry level job, so they can gain the experience they need to move up in that field.
If you are not interested in social mobility and would like to see a grand welfare state where government provides most of the benefits for people, especially on the lower end of the economic ladder, then you aren’t talking about social mobility and the ability of people to move up on their own without public assistance. You are talking about an expansive welfare state social democracy, which is very different.