California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa was challenged by CNN Money correspondent Cristina Alesci on Thursday after he seemingly downplayed income inequality issues in the US.
“America’s the richest country on Earth because we’ve been able to put capital together and we’ve been able to make our poor somewhat the envy of the world,” Issa told Alesci. “If you go to India or you go to any number of third-world countries, you have two problems: you have greater inequality of income and wealth. You also have less opportunity for people to rise from the have-not to the have.”
“I don’t think the comparison is one we want to make,” Alesci responded. “We don’t want to compare ourselves to India. We want to set the bar pretty high.”
“Why shouldn’t we?” Issa countered, before telling her, “I appreciate your comment, but you’re wrong. You do have to compare yourself to the rest of the world. We compete with the rest of the world.”
Because the US operates in a global economy, he argued, it was important “that we’re able to amass capital, have a trained workforce. And quite frankly, if we want to get paid more, we need to be able to produce somewhat better than many of those countries, including India.”
Reporting by both CNN Money and the Washington Post corroborates Alesci’s point. Research has shown that not only is economic mobility more stagnant in the US compared to other developed nations like Japan, Germany and Australia, but
that it has remained stagnant for the past 50 years.
“It is not true that mobility itself is getting lower,” Harvard University economist Lawrence F. Katz told the Post. “What’s really changed is the consequences of it. Because there’s so much inequality, people born near the bottom tend to stay near the bottom, and that’s much more consequential than it was 50 years ago.”
Issa, the former CEO of a California-based car security alarm company, has an estimated net worth of $450 million.
Watch the interview, as posted by CNN Money on Thursday, below.