In an August interview with Consuelo Mack of WealthTrack, value investor Joel Greenblatt discusses his new book, Common Sense: The Investor’s Guide to Equality, Opportunity and Growth and his views about what he sees as deeply-rooted inequality in the U.S.
“Big picture,” Greenblatt says, “I’m a capitalist. But capitalism only works when everyone has a fair chance, and there are so many places where they don’t.” His book, he says, is about “what we can do in the private and public sectors to change things that pretty much everyone wants to change.”
Here are some key takeaways from Greenblatt’s comments:
- Education: “With the right support, kids from all backgrounds can perform at super-high levels,” says Greenblatt, but adds that those who need the most financial support have access to the worst schools. He suggests that major companies establish different standards and requirements for employment—suggesting the concept of “alternative certifications” whereby candidates without college degrees can take certain courses or placement tests that could land them high-paying jobs. These companies, says Greenblatt, could “develop a different ecosystem,” one independent of government support or accreditation. If big companies like Amazon and Facebook were to adopt such standards, he says, “other companies would follow.”
- Taxation: According to Greenblatt, increasing the earned income tax credit (which decreases the tax burden for with low- to moderate-income people) has the potential to get billions of children out of poverty over time and ultimately, would cost “less than free” according to Greenblatt.
- Immigration: Greenblatt argues that the U.S is the “second to last developed country to encourage skilled immigration” adding, “for every skilled immigrant we take in, we will collect between one-half million to $1 million and create two new jobs for people who are already here,” he said. “It’s a free goldmine.”
- Retirement savings: The people who need retirement savings the most, says Greenblatt, have none. He suggests diverting the social security tax (currently, incomes up to $137,700 are subject to the tax) to fund savings for everyone as soon as they start working—to allow the younger workforce to benefit from interest compounding over time.