In a 2013 speech at the Center for American Progress, one of Washington’s leading left-of-center think tanks, President Barack Obama declared, “The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe.” To halt and reverse these trends was, he contended, “the defining challenge of our time.”

Judged by subsequent rhetoric, America has yet to meet this challenge. In 2014 Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders thundered, “The obscene and increasing level of wealth and income inequality in this country is immoral, un-American, and unsustainable.” The 2020 Democratic Party platform denounced “rising income inequality” and promised “immediate, decisive action” against “entrenched income and wealth inequality.”

Two books published this year flesh out the argument. Left Behind: The Democrats’ Failed Attempt to Solve Inequality, by Claremont McKenna College history professor Lily Geismer, deplores the late-20th-century Democratic Party’s reluctance to challenge and alter outcomes determined by market forces. Instead of Bill Clinton’s triangulation about the era of big government being over, Geismer wants Democrats to erect “new barriers” to “limit the reach of the private sector” while working to “reconstruct America’s

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