Does America have an income inequality problem or an opportunity problem?
Should the fight against inequality be the Democrats’ defining cause? The party’s rising tribe of left-wing economic populists — headed up by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — would answer with a resounding “yes.”
But another tribe in the party has very different ideas.
Jon Cowan is the president of the Democratic think tank Third Way, the “intellectual heir to President Bill Clinton’s centrist politics,” as The New York Times’ Eduardo Porter put it in a new profile. Cowan acknowledges that “income inequality is severe” and “parts of the economic system are unfair.” But he also insists that “these are not the central problems vexing most Americans. Many of the solutions proposed to meet them are not responsive to the aspirations, needs, and values of those Americans.” Cowan would prefer that increasing opportunity become “the great moral cause of our time.”