Senators Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders recently inveighed against corporate stock buybacks and suggested they'd like a law that limits share repurchases to those companies that pay a minimum wage of $15 or more an hour.

This idea, however well-intentioned, would replace management’s judgment on matters of corporate capital allocation with that of Congress's. No thanks.

Their argument, however, makes too little of a crucial point: stock buybacks don't benefit the vast majority of Americans because so few people have little or no stake in U.S. equity markets.

The senators use data from the research of Edward Nathan Wolff, an economics professor at New York University, who found that the wealthiest 10 percent of households held 84 percent of all stocks. In other words, the capital markets, to which readers of these pages devote so much time and energy -- and one of the most effective savings and wealth creation mechanisms ever invented -- simply don’t matter for the vast majority of Americans.

Yes, there are those 401(k) millionaires, but they are outliers. Heck, something like 40 percent of Americans don't have the financial flexibility to handle a $400 emergency expense, according to the Federal Reserve. Indeed, the Fed estimates that among those who do invest, half have less than $40,000 invested.

When we discuss the rise in income inequality, wealth-friendly tax policies are certainly part of the reason for the widening gap. But the simple fact that the richest Americans have seen the value of their stock portfolios triple since the financial crisis is surely a large part also. But stock buybacks are among the least of the many reasons why there is so much wealth disparity.

Schumer and Sanders, instead of directing their fire at share buybacks, should instead do more to advance specific clear legislation to address the economic problems of a broad swath of Americans. These might include:

• Minimum wage: The evidence shows that moderate minimum wage increases, phased in over time, are not job killers, as some had warned. What we really should be discussing is a reasonable national increase from the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour to $9, then $10.50 and then $12 -- then index the minimum to inflation so those at the bottom of the income strata don't fall behind.

• Stock-market participation: That so many middle-class families barely put aside money for retirement is astounding, and points to an imminent retirement crisis. There are several things Congress can do to fix this. Start with raising the Independent Retirement Account contributions limit above the current $6,000 ceiling to, say, $10,000. Then, tie the limits to inflation as opposed to the current random increases in the ceiling. This will let more people planning for retirement save enough tax-deferred so they are not totally reliant on Social Security.

• Payroll Contributions: Allow workers to contribute to their own Roth or traditional IRAs via their employer (or payroll provider). These automatic-contribution accounts are a large reason for the success of 401(k) programs. We can also allow companies to establish a tax-free match. Even better, allow all Americans to participate in the Federal Thrift Savings Plan, a retirement program similar to 401(k)s for federal employees.

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