Mind the gap. Wait, nevermind.
March 30, 2007 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Income inequality continues to rise. Or maybe not.

Professors Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty and the Cato Institute's Alan Reynolds debate on how to measure[PDF] income inequality. Despite the ongoing debate, President Bush has decided, "The fact is that income inequality is real; it's been rising for more than 25 years."
posted by peeedro (81 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Cato Institute? Is there scholarship here as good as their stuff on global warming?
posted by delmoi at 7:48 PM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Suppose that it were true that income inequality was rising. Why would that be a bad thing? (Myself, I think it's neither good nor bad.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:56 PM on March 30, 2007


The problem with this kind of discussion is that I am wholly inadequate to judging which of these presentations is most "correct." And I'm smart.

And yet, when considering the most destitute 1% of society and the most affluent 1% of society, I remain completely confident in my assessment of who is getting the fucking shaft.
posted by nanojath at 7:58 PM on March 30, 2007


Maestro Chomsky warned about this a long time ago, Unions warned about this a long time ago and any middle class person started suffering from this a long time ago.

The whole idea of the 'rich' middle class and social wellfare for the (working) poor died somewhat around the 1980's during the Reagan / Thatcher years.

After WWII most western governments tried to manifest social utopia, but we are moving back to an almost pre-industrial form of society: a money nobility at the top and the working classes at the bottom - and nothing inbetween.

The so called bourgeoisie has lost it's own lust for power, it's own (childrens) education and influence in politics. As long as they get enough glitzy consumerism and a cheap vaction flight to Ibiza / Cancun / wherever they won't revolt.

They are already so brainwashed by the idea and acceptance of a global capitalism ('we have to accept less to keep the companies and therefore the economy rolling') that higher working hours, less social benefits, education, health and even human rights are accept without a wimper.

Democracy, Socialism and Humanism have been transformed into a global consumerism without the desire for a better world for all.
posted by homodigitalis at 8:00 PM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


SCDB— I dunno. How do you like living in, say, Haiti?
posted by klangklangston at 8:01 PM on March 30, 2007


Ah, Mr. Den Beste wades in with the bootstraps vote. Or not. What do you mean? Do you really feel ambivalent towards this issue? Does the change in social/economic realities mean nothing at all or are you just on the fence about what it means? I feel like one must quantify it in human suffering, so to me it means quite a bit. When you asked would that be a bad thing, I get the feeling that even with your parenthetical remark you are saying that it doesn't matter. Please elaborate, how is it neither good nor bad?
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 8:18 PM on March 30, 2007



Suppose that it were true that income inequality was rising. Why would that be a bad thing?


Some people enjoy social cohesion.
posted by pompomtom at 8:43 PM on March 30, 2007


Suppose that everyone's wealth and well-being was rising, but the wealth and well-being of the top tier was rising faster than that of the bottom tier.

In other words, no group is being made increasingly impoverished, but the inequality between the top and bottom are rising.

That's what's happening in the US. Why is it a bad thing? I sense an a priori assumption here, and I'd like someone to explain it.

If the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, perhaps that's a cause for concern. But if nearly everyone's getting richer, except that the rich are getting richer a lot faster, then why is that bad? What's wrong with a rising tide that floats all boats but floats some boats higher than others?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:49 PM on March 30, 2007


What's this got to do with "social cohesion"?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:50 PM on March 30, 2007


What's wrong with a rising tide that floats all boats but floats some boats higher than others?

Because it's the relative gap that matters. Equality is measured from the middle.

The interesting thing here is seeing the institutions who traditionally justify the growing divide now suggesting that it isn't really happening, as if they can't justify it any longer.
posted by Brian B. at 9:20 PM on March 30, 2007


I don't have a real problem with an inequality gap per se but what I do have a problem is the lack of a reasonable "floor". If every American had reasonable standard of living, with health care, housing, and food security, then it wouldn't matter to me what the upper echelon got.

The problem is that a great number of Americans don't have those things, so it seems kind of perverse to structure the economy in a way that increases economic stability for the poor and lower middle class, while at the same increasing wealth at the top. A lot of right-wing economists like Rush Limbaugh will go on about the government doesn't really effect anything, bla, bla, bla, but that's bullshit. When the bush administrations fires IRS lawyers who collect back taxes from the rich, one of the few government jobs that is actually profitable, you can literally see how the government is working to protect the assets of the rich.

Another brilliant example is the rolling back of the Estate tax. This save one single family (the waltons of wal-mart fame) something like $30 billion dollars. That's just one family. Yet, poor people face more economic instability and stress. That, obviously is bad.

There's also the issue of simple jealousy, particularly among upper middle class people who provide a lot of the funding for political campaigns. There was an interesting article in the NYT talking about how upper middle class people were getting irritated by the stratospheric salaries of hedge fund managers and the like. These people are immensely powerful in the political process, and I imagine if they bitch enough something might be done.
posted by delmoi at 9:34 PM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Suppose that every one's wealth and well-being was rising, but the wealth and well-being of the top tier was rising faster than that of the bottom tier.

Except real wages haven't been rising in the US over the past 20 year, so what your saying just isn't true for the US. Plus people in the are working longer hours and have less job security than they did in the past, the middle class's quality of work is simply not as good as it used to be.
posted by afu at 9:42 PM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I understand why we might want to measure "equality" from the middle, but I don't understand why we would care about equality in this area. What matters is quality of life, if people have a good enough quality of life, equality doesn't really matter to me, and I don't see why it should. The problem with people being poor is that they do not have certain things they need. This is the problem, not the fact that they have less than some other guy. If everyone's needs were met, then we would have achieved the goal.

Obviously, this is all theoretical, we will never meet everyone's needs. That said, I think that's the area we should focus on. Measuring how many people need help meeting their basic needs, not measuring how much money certain people have relative to certain other people. Like I said, I think the goal of any sort of analysis like this should be to help people, and I fail to see how anyone is helped by focusing on inequality.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:51 PM on March 30, 2007


Studies using "virtual economics" suggests that more equality is better, as opposed to the majority fighting over the scraps not yet controlled by a few, as in the third world.

In Norrath, more equality permits freer markets. This may provide the most important lesson of all from the EverQuest experiment: Real equality can obviate much of a democratic government's intervention in a modern economy. Many of our own government's current policies—progressive taxation, securities regulation, social insurance—are aimed at offsetting some form of inequality. If EverQuest is any guide, the liberal dream of genuine equality would usher in the conservative vision of truly limited government.

If anyone feels that the conservatives have a handle on the economy, they should notice more how they kneejerk ignore demand side solutions (e.g. immigration, drug policy, environmental issues), as if they don't even understand simple economics.
posted by Brian B. at 9:56 PM on March 30, 2007




"It's every man for himself..." said the unemployed childless engineer unironically.
posted by dglynn at 10:40 PM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm confused, does Bush's comment prove that income inequality is real, or that it isn't?

Just to be clear, I'm down with equality. So long as I'm more equal than anyone else.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:45 PM on March 30, 2007


You people have it all wrong. The rich get richer, the poor get children.
posted by mullingitover at 10:51 PM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought this article did a good job of explaining the findings of Bouchaud and Mézard, who "show that the distribution of wealth is of the Pareto (power-law) type," for a (very much) non-economist like me.
posted by Abiezer at 11:05 PM on March 30, 2007


Crap, that was mean. I'm sorry. Ok we'll address it directly....

If the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, perhaps that's a cause for concern. But if nearly everyone's getting richer, except that the rich are getting richer a lot faster, then why is that bad? What's wrong with a rising tide that floats all boats but floats some boats higher than others?

Because the results are not honestly comparative. Other places have economies that provide for their participants more equitably and still remain competitive.

People live in places where the health care is all paid for and the college is all paid for and the old age is all paid for and they still have jobs, and in fact sometimes have 6 weeks of vacation in the summer.

People in some other places live better than we do here in the United States.

Our country is rich, but poorer countries appear to be capable of providing better lives to their citizens.

People went without food,water, and medical supplies on a working river in this country. Don't tell me things are OK. I have in-laws that were in Germany visiting relatives when that happened, and they said they were ashamed when the Germans asked them how we could let that happen.
posted by dglynn at 11:21 PM on March 30, 2007


Because it's the relative gap that matters. Equality is measured from the middle.

Ah, but why? You've just begged the question. You haven't explained why the gap matters, no matter where it's measured from.

I know the answer, but I think most of you don't know why you've been taught to believe this. You just know that it's a bad thing, dogmatically.

The term for it is the "relative immiserization thesis" and it was developed about a hundred years ago as a way of explaining just why it was that Marx wasn't wrong, even though Capitalism didn't seem to be collapsing the way Marx said it should. Lee Harris explained the immiserization thesis, including relative immiserization and its successor "global immiserization", in this article. Here's a part of it:
By the Twentieth Century the immiserization thesis was already beginning to look shaky. Empirical evidence, drawn either by impressionistic observation or systematic statistical studies, began to suggest that there was something wrong with the classical version of the thesis, and an attempt was made to save it by redefining immiserization to mean not an absolute increase in misery, but merely a relative one. This gloss allowed a vast increase in empirical plausibility, since it accepted the fact that the workers were indeed getting better off under the capitalist system but went on to argue that they were not getting better off at the same rate as the capitalists.

The problem with this revision lay not in its economic premises, but its political ones. Could one realistically believe that workers would overthrow an economic system that was continually improving their own lot, simply because that of the capitalist class was improving at a marginally better rate? Certainly, the workers might envy the capitalists; but such emotions simply could not supply the gigantic impetus required to overthrow a structure as massive as the capitalist system. Before the workers of a capitalist society could unite, they had to feel that they had literally nothing to lose — nothing to lose but their proverbial chains. For if they had homes and cars and boats and rvs to lose as well, then it became quite another matter.

In short, the relative immiserization thesis was simply not the stuff that drives people to the barricades. At most it could fuel the gradualist reforms of the evolutionary ideal of socialism — a position identified with Eduard Bernstein.

The post-World War II period demolished the last traces of the classical immiserization thesis. Workers in the most advanced capitalist countries were prosperous by any standard imaginable, either absolute or relative; and what is even more important, they felt themselves to be well off, and believed that the future would only make them and their children even better off than they had been in the past. This was a deadly blow to the immiserization thesis and hence to Marxism. For the failure of the immiserization thesis is in fact the failure of classical Marxism. If there is no misery, there is no revolution; and if there is no revolution, there is no socialism. Q.E.D. Socialism goes back once more to being merely a utopian fantasy.
So the real answer to my question of why rising inequality matters is that it's supposed to inspire the proletariat to rise in revolution against the evil Capitalists. Only it doesn't work.

But it's still important to try to rattle the bars of the proletariat by showing them that they're being screwed by the Capitalists, in case they might get angry and rise in revolution anyway. They never have, but it doesn't cost anything to try.

That's why you've all been taught that "rising income inequality" is a bad thing. It's because if you didn't believe that, there'd be no chance of Socialist revolution.

And that's why you all think that "social cohesion" has something to do with it. It's because those who taught you this dogma are hoping that increasing income inequality will cause a breakdown in social cohesion, so as to bring about the Socialist revolution.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:42 PM on March 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


That's why you've all been taught that "rising income inequality" is a bad thing. It's because if you didn't believe that, there'd be no chance of Socialist revolution.

"I live in California, and the rest of my family lives in 1954"

those who taught you this dogma

As soon as the sub-$1000 projector does 1080 HD, I'm seriously going to have to consider one for the basement.
posted by dglynn at 11:59 PM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Rising inequality matters because $1 from 2007 doesn't buy the same value as a $1 from 1980.

Rising inequality raises the difference in purchase power between rich and poor.

What the poor could buy in 1980, those same poor would not be able to buy in 2007.

A class of people are being priced further and further out of the system. Oligarchies can't operate when the proles can't afford to prop them up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:11 AM on March 31, 2007


*stares dumbfounded at SCDB's ridiculous statements*
posted by papakwanz at 12:28 AM on March 31, 2007


If you don't like my answer, give me one of your own.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:30 AM on March 31, 2007


What I take away from analyses like those I linked above is that disparities in income are by and large not the result of greater talent or more hard work being rewarded; they stem mostly from a combination of luck, existing power and opportunity imbalances and cumulative consequences.
Since I see no viable moral or practical justifications for the bulk of income inequality, for me a just and decent society will institute mechanisms, such as a progressive tax regime, to correct the imbalances that arise over accumulated historical transactions. This will lead to greater well-being for a larger number of people and do away with much of the discontent and attendant social tension that results from inequality, and especially gross inequality.
The well-off may complain or argue that they have earned their disproportionate reward, but they patently have not, so such objections can be set aside. This serves both utilitarian and moral goals.
posted by Abiezer at 1:30 AM on March 31, 2007


Well... perhaps we don't like inequality because we observe that sometimes bad things happen to good people (who is good people? us.) so we want to minimize the potential impact of bad things. For another, most of us don't like poverty. We don't like our bretheren to suffer. And we don't want our neighbours to be excluded from aspects of living in an advanced democracy (good housing, healthcare, education, voting). We understand that status, freedom and other good things are tied to income, and that this is manifestly unfair (since income is hereditary, subject to perfidious chance and so forth), and inequality exacerbates this existential problem.

We all gain by letting price signals reward people who work on what they're productive at, and what others value. Yet one's hard pressed to believe that the widening, orders-of-magnitude differences that exist in reward for a hard days work are required to elicit this information, or lead to better allocations of labour.
posted by ~ at 1:35 AM on March 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


>Why would that be a bad thing?

Money's just another form of power. If you don't believe that, then stop reading.

Large power disparities means that the power over the many ends up concentrated in the hands of a few. This is a horrendously bad idea, because it allows a few greedy/careless/well-intentioned incompetants to ruin everything. More insiduously, however, it acclimates the hordes of weak into relying on the powerful few.

Thus, when the powerful few inevitably screw up (as human nature inevitably does), the unwashed masses are ill-equipped to fix the situation in any meaningful way; indeed they are already acclimated to doing the bidding of the powerful and are likely to just repeat their mistakes. Concentrating power into a small minority of people means that their small-scale personal failings become large-scale social failings.

Power disparity is a threat because it lets a few rulers do exactly what they want. Given the inadequacies of human nature, that is the worst thing possible for a healthy, functional modern society.
posted by PsychoKick at 2:02 AM on March 31, 2007


ScDB, a problem with what you linked above is the word "marginal". The issue is that people do not believe that the income disparity is increasing linearly - the rate of increase is itself increasing.

You know where the trend line from something like that winds up when the amount of resources is finite.
posted by smeger at 3:06 AM on March 31, 2007


A couple of people are commenting that global capitalism has in fact made the poor poorer. Are you counting India and China? Or do you think only Americans deserve jobs?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:13 AM on March 31, 2007


People live in places where the health care is all paid for and the college is all paid for and the old age is all paid for and they still have jobs, and in fact sometimes have 6 weeks of vacation in the summer.

People in some other places live better than we do here in the United States.

Our country is rich, but poorer countries appear to be capable of providing better lives to their citizens.


This is what gets me. This is why I believe income inequality is stupid (ok I won't use the word bad). There is no reason we can't pay for these things in the US - oh wait the only way to have those things is for the top 1% to help out!

Also, in talking about income inequality on this thread, some people are assuming that the poor are getting richer as well as the rich, just not at the same rate. And they seem to imply the poor have it ok. In fact I think the poor and middle class are getting poorer.

As Blazecock Pileon said, $1 from 1980 does not buy what it bought in 2007.
posted by maggiemaggie at 4:50 AM on March 31, 2007


From the first link:

While total reported income in the United States increased almost 9 percent in 2005, the most recent year for which such data is available, average incomes for those in the bottom 90 percent dipped slightly compared with the year before, dropping $172, or 0.6 percent.
posted by maggiemaggie at 4:59 AM on March 31, 2007


The post-World War II period demolished the last traces of the classical immiserization thesis.

But the post WWII period was the time of greatest economic equality! It is ridiculous to point to that period to prove that the workers don't care about income inequality. Anyway I think most people that are against income inequality are against it not because they want some Marxist revolution to occur, but because they do not believe that the rich deserve to have that much money and power. I wouldn't want to be someones slave even if he gave me a million dollar house and all the material goods I wanted.

A couple of people are commenting that global capitalism has in fact made the poor poorer. Are you counting India and China? Or do you think only Americans deserve jobs?

The poor people in China are staging regular protests over the rising income inequality there, so I don't think they are really on the side of bring on the inequality.
posted by afu at 5:03 AM on March 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


afu's entirely right - China's Gini index has hit levels seen as indicative of a social crisis and the widening income gap is one of the major themes of public discourse here.
posted by Abiezer at 6:24 AM on March 31, 2007


If you don't like my answer, give me one of your own.

There have been several attempts in this thread (many non-snarky), but, like the willfully blind idiot that you are, you choose to ignore the comments with substance that actually refute your statements, and instead focus on the only marginally competent responses to make it appear like you're actually interested in having a discussion.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:31 AM on March 31, 2007


Rising income inequality is bad for democracy. We live in a democracy. Democracy is good. Rising income inequality is bad for us.

That's the short version. If you believe income inequality is GOOD for democracy, or that democracy itself is bad, it falls on you to prove it. Please show your work.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:49 AM on March 31, 2007


I think that rising income inequality is neither good nor bad for democracy. I also think that rising income inequality is an unavoidable emergent property of competitive systems with certain properties, and that all attempts to prevent rising income inequality will cause the system to self-destruct.

Here's "my work".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:34 AM on March 31, 2007


Sorry Steven, "I think rising inequality is neither good nor bad for democracy." is not proof, nor is your meandering reflection on state intervention in the economy. Take a look at Aristotle's Politics for a non-Marxist version of this problem. The question you need to ask yourself is this: can a democracy function as a democracy when the majority of its citizens are indebted to a few for their economic subsistence? What democratic goods will be lost in that scenario? Come back when you've actually thought about the question.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:48 AM on March 31, 2007


Yeah, went through and read your "work," and it's a bunch of libertarian platitudes thrown together to create an impressive illusion of proving something without, you know, actually doing so.
Stick to engineering; your understanding of political economics is facile at best.
(I mean, honestly, the very fact that you mention anti-trust legislation while concluding that governmental intervention is bad is retarded. Either you have to admit that the question isn't between entirely eliminating the effects of economies of scale et al., and having some regulation, it's between having some regulation and other regulation. Your essay is the type of thinking I'd expect from a conservative ninth-grader.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:18 AM on March 31, 2007


Ah, but why? You've just begged the question. You haven't explained why the gap matters, no matter where it's measured from.

I didn't beg the question, I merely assumed that you understood the difference between relative and absolute when it was pointed out. You are ignoring wealth as a relative phenomenon. A hundred diamonds is relatively worthless if everyone already has two hundred, for example.
posted by Brian B. at 8:30 AM on March 31, 2007


But does it matter if now everyone else has 250 diamonds? You're still boned by having 100.
posted by smackfu at 8:42 AM on March 31, 2007


"I think rising inequality is neither good nor bad for democracy."

This is the average sentiment of most Americans in denial, especially the water carriers for the wealthy who, ironically, are such toadies precisely because they agree to buy their freedom, because they don't understand how to vote for it.

Neither freedom nor justice can exist without equal rights, and equal rights cease to exist when it requires money to exercise them as a commodity. The major difference in most disagreement here is the valuation of those rights, some seeing it as a title or credit, others as a social responsibility to maintain.
posted by Brian B. at 8:52 AM on March 31, 2007


The question isn't buying power; it doesn't matter whether you can buy seven widgets or seventy or seven hundred thousand... the question is: how does income inequity effect the distribution of public goods? Not widgets, not cars or computers or kitchen cabinets, but the Goods: justice, beauty, excellence, etc., which we now call by other names: the rule of law, innovation, wisdom.

Certainly wealthy democracies are better at distributing necessities than wealthy tyrannies or oligarchies, but supplying food and medicine, the means of survival, is the least of the public goods. Democracies in general are better at supplying the true Goods, but their capacity to do so depends not on what they are called, but how they function.

If public office is available only to the rich, if connections get you farther than ambition or intelligence, if policies follow the dictates of the few rather than the good of all, than your so-called democracy is a lie. Growing income inequality produces hereditary, unearned wealth in the next generation, which rewards indolence and affectation. Slowly, the regime becomes despotic, the law is corrupted, the artists and engineers flee for freer places, and wisdom must again hide from the tyranny of public opinion and prejudice.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:59 AM on March 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


ack. than = then.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:00 AM on March 31, 2007


Maggiemaggie: "Also, in talking about income inequality on this thread, some people are assuming that the poor are getting richer as well as the rich, just not at the same rate. And they seem to imply the poor have it ok. In fact I think the poor and middle class are getting poorer."

Not quite... It's been the case that relative wealth for the poor and middle classes has been stagnant for the past 15 years or so, but have started increasing in the past 2 or 3.

There's been a bunch of talk on some of the economics blogs on the web, the best explanation of what's going on (to me), is that whatever change are happening in the global market has resulted in the fact that top execs have been able to capture more and more of the wealth being created (this is a key point, they're not stealing it from the rich but because of various reasons. decline of unions, wage pressures on middle class from developing countries etc, they have been able to take more of the wealth created unequally compared to the past.

Is this a bad thing in and of itself? Since you have to understand that they're also (in some way or another) MAKING this wealth. (remember the pie of wealth increases! the global economy is NOT a zero sum game! well in many ways maybe...)

Also remember that inequality is a largely static measure, WITHIN the United States there is a large amount of people moving both UP and DOWN income brackets, and that a relatively LARGE percentage of poverty (again STATIC poverty, although I'm not discounting say inner-city poverty) in this country can be accounted for by immigration.

Income inequality tells you that certain people are making money, it doesn't exactly tell you what's going on with the poor, and I sincerely doubt it tells you anything about social cohesion because wealth disparities geographically WITHIN the country are so wide...
posted by stratastar at 9:55 AM on March 31, 2007


er that should be stealing from poor, (many people may have issue with this statement however)..
posted by stratastar at 9:59 AM on March 31, 2007


but stratastar, as the first link points out, the bottom 90% of US saw their income decline in 2005.
posted by maggiemaggie at 11:20 AM on March 31, 2007


Preface: I am not right-wing, and I am neither capitalist nor socialist.

The Left has made a remarkably poor showing in this thread. Begged questions, righteous indignation, ad hominem attacks against ideological opponents--it's DailyKos all over again.

Anotherpanacea, you are an asshole. Making an assertion with no proof, challenging your opponent to provide proof for his counter-assertion, then deploying the True Scotsman to reject the validity of his proof DOES NOT constitute actual argumentation. It's intellectual bullying, and it's engaged in by the people at Little Green Footballs on a daily basis, so you're in good company.

What SCDB is saying, and I think I agree, is that income inequality, on its own, is not a bad thing; it represents certain natural processes of stratification common to societies with few limits on enterpreneurship, individual income, and so on. On the other hand, if it is in fact true that the poorer are getting poorer, that's entirely different.

What is being ignored is that American society is already so class-stratified that achievable increases or decreases in the rate of inequality won't do much to affect it. The top-five-percent crowd have been the movers and shakers of society for hundreds of years, and will remain so as long as the state exists. Instead of focusing on these comparatively trivial developments, we should be focusing on the distribution of power, so that poor communities can have autonomy and self-rule. Expecting a government dominated by the rich to consider "social justice" programs from a standpoint of morality rather than political gain is starry-eyed at best and complicit at worst. Remember, programs which mostly benefit people who are not in poverty--Social Security, for example, or agricultural subsidies--are much more promoted, much better-funded, and much better at mobilizing certain voting blocs in your favor. Your welfare state is the executive committee of the ruling class.
posted by nasreddin at 11:21 AM on March 31, 2007


Suppose that it were true that income inequality was rising. Why would that be a bad thing?

For one thing, if the hedge fund trader down the block can afford to pay $10 for his coffee and croissant every morning, then the price of coffee and croissant will rise to the point where I can no longer afford it. That is bad, as far as I am concerned.
posted by maggiemaggie at 11:27 AM on March 31, 2007


...ad hominem attacks against ideological opponents--it's DailyKos all over again.

Anotherpanacea, you are an asshole.


Maybe you took a long break between those sentences and lost your trainwreck of thought.
posted by Brian B. at 11:49 AM on March 31, 2007


The 2006 elections saw a number of politicians elected with populist views on economics (ie Jim Webb and John Tester). I actually do think that Americans are waking up a little bit on this issue and getting cranky, particularly when it comes to health care.

This "greed is good" sophistry is getting old, and it's not working so well anymore on the average joe, who knows what he sees, and he sees trouble coming at him because he doesn't know how he's going to pay for Betty's college tuition, let alone his retirement and medical bills when he's 90.
posted by maggiemaggie at 11:53 AM on March 31, 2007


Maybe you took a long break between those sentences and lost your trainwreck of thought.

HURF DURF TU QUOQUE
posted by nasreddin at 11:56 AM on March 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


nasreddin: What SCDB is saying, and I think I agree, is that income inequality, on its own, is not a bad thing

Actually, no. In his own words: "Suppose that it were true that income inequality was rising."
Which basically means, as you said: "that the poorer are getting poorer".

And frankly, it's meaningless to consider income inequality "on its own". Income only means something in relation to the economic system it exists in, and in our current system suppliers can and do gradually raise prices to reflect the growing amount of wealth in the system. Increasing income disparity thus means that the poor man's wages are not keeping pace with rising prices, making him poorer than his predecessors.

Instead of focusing on these comparatively trivial developments, we should be focusing on the distribution of power, so that poor communities can have autonomy and self-rule. Expecting a government dominated by the rich to consider "social justice" programs from a standpoint of morality rather than political gain is starry-eyed at best and complicit at worst.

I'm sorry, but it's equally starry-eyed to expect any of the powers-that-be to allow the establishment of autonomous self-ruling communities of poor. They're not going to let massive amounts of people live and exist outside the system, especially when those people don't want to live outside the system in the first place. There's a reason why the Amish are a very small minority.
posted by PsychoKick at 12:28 PM on March 31, 2007


If you're going to quote me, please quote me accurately. I said:

Suppose that everyone's wealth and well-being was rising, but the wealth and well-being of the top tier was rising faster than that of the bottom tier.

In other words, no group is being made increasingly impoverished, but the inequality between the top and bottom are rising.

posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:32 PM on March 31, 2007


I did quote you. Right there at the very top of this page, the second comment.
posted by PsychoKick at 12:37 PM on March 31, 2007


Wealth----> power----> greater wealth----> greater power.

The real question is, is it too late? By "too late" I mean is it too late to wrest some of that power away from the few and get it back into the hands of the many. How much does it cost to run for congress these days? The Senate? The Presidency?

Thousands of Mom & Pops were making a living either selling stuff or manufacturing stuff and along comes WalMart and now 5 people are worth $80 Billion and all the thousands of Moms & Pops & Juniors are making a subsistence wage. 80 billion gives you a hell of a lot of power-- power to change the laws. The WalMart heirs can use that money to change the laws regarding unions, for example, or import duties or death duties. I imagine that if they are so inclined some of the heirs (or their children) will run for office

I challenged my husband the other day to name one thing that President Bush had done well. He answered, "Well he made the rich a helluva lot richer." What has happened to the EPA, OSHA, FDA, and the National Park System under his watch? They have been handicapped so that the owners of corporations can have a freer reign. Who suffers when OSHA can't do its job or the FDA cuts inspectors, or the National Park loses funding? Its not the top 1%.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:39 PM on March 31, 2007


And anyway, to address your revision:
Suppose that everyone's wealth and well-being was rising, but the wealth and well-being of the top tier was rising faster than that of the bottom tier.
In other words, no group is being made increasingly impoverished, but the inequality between the top and bottom are rising.


You're essentially positing a benevolent dictatorship. The growing income disparities mean that the poor always lose more and more power compared to the rich. The situation isn't long-term stable; the rich aren't perfect and are going to screw up at some point, at which point the disparity will only magnify the damage.
posted by PsychoKick at 12:44 PM on March 31, 2007


Increasing income disparity thus means that the poor man's wages are not keeping pace with rising prices, making him poorer than his predecessors.

I don't think this is empirically true, because rates of inflation are not growing at a rate at all commensurate with income inequality.


I'm sorry, but it's equally starry-eyed to expect any of the powers-that-be to allow the establishment of autonomous self-ruling communities of poor. They're not going to let massive amounts of people live and exist outside the system, especially when those people don't want to live outside the system in the first place. There's a reason why the Amish are a very small minority.


You're absolutely right. The state's primary interest is perpetuating itself; I agree. My argument is that social justice programs have a net entrenching effect on the system due to the factor I outlined, whereas the types of things I suggest have a--however small and insignificant--de-legitimizing effect. I do not know if it's true; there are ways autonomization can be coopted as well, certainly. But the shift in perspective that focusing on autonomy provides is probably useful, simply because it's not inherently a dead end.
posted by nasreddin at 12:49 PM on March 31, 2007


get it back into the hands of the many

Power hasn't been "in the hands of the many" since Andrew Jackson, and even then it was just a matter of using populist rhetoric to achieve elitist political goals.
posted by nasreddin at 12:51 PM on March 31, 2007


Power hasn't been "in the hands of the many" since Andrew Jackson, and even then it was just a matter of using populist rhetoric to achieve elitist political goals.

I disagree. After WWII, the middle class was seen as the "backbone of America," They had real voting power and real purchasing power; their vote and their dollar were courted assiduously. I've always gone on the assumption that America needs a good healthy middle class to buy the goods and keep the country running. But I can see now I was wrong.

The current President has turned a deaf ear to the working class-- he obviously feels he doesn't need their support. He and his cohorts discovered just how easy it is to get the vote without giving the voters what they need or want.

Take the National Park system which is always rates high on the list of desirable governmental programs. Yosemite, The Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone-- millions of Americans visit them every year on vacation, yet federal funding been slashed, parks closed, park rangers laid off, scenic routes left to fall into disrepair. But not the logging roads. Logging roads continue to be built so that commercial loggers can go in and harvest the trees growing on Federal land.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:57 PM on March 31, 2007


Anotherpanacea, you are an asshole.

No argument there.

Making an assertion with no proof, challenging your opponent to provide proof for his counter-assertion, then deploying the True Scotsman to reject the validity of his proof DOES NOT constitute actual argumentation.

Hmm... I did make assertions, but they're broadly accepted and uncontroversial. When I say that "Snow is white," I don't cite sources... but I do ask for sources when my interlocutor says "Snow is blue." You're accusing me of using the true scotsman, but I'm don't see that argument in my comments here. Do you have someone else in mind?

It's intellectual bullying, and it's engaged in by the people at Little Green Footballs on a daily basis, so you're in good company.

Err... I've never been to LFG, I hear it's hellaciously bad over there, an echo chamber so loud you can't hear yourself think. But wait... could it be that you think I share the commonly accepted ideology of LGFers? That's amusing, but unwarranted.

Oh, as for intellectual bullying... if I had clubbed SCDB over the head with Common Sense and kick copies of Montesquieu in his face at the beach, I'd see your point. This thing we're doing here?

It's the internet.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:59 PM on March 31, 2007


nasreddin: My argument is that social justice programs have a net entrenching effect on the system due to the factor I outlined, whereas the types of things I suggest have a--however small and insignificant--de-legitimizing effect. I do not know if it's true; there are ways autonomization can be coopted as well, certainly. But the shift in perspective that focusing on autonomy provides is probably useful, simply because it's not inherently a dead end.

Ah. If I may be snarky, you're proposing yet another horrendously complicated "consciousness-raising" exercise.

If you're going to go on about "shifts in perspective" and "de-legitimizing", then you might as well take the simple route and just raise the ire of the masses. Good old-fashioned muckraking. Exploit people's natural tendancy to buck and chafe at the reigns of their superiors.

It's ugly and unwieldy, but more cost-effective than yet another some scheme to establish the Glorious People's Self-Sufficient Enclaves of the Enlightened Poor Working Man.
posted by PsychoKick at 2:20 PM on March 31, 2007


Oh wait, I see the alleged true scotsman, now. You think I'm importing some controversial definition of democracy when I claim that a democracy can't survive large inequalities of wealth?

The problem is that democracy is not exactly equivalent to voting for representatives. The USSR had elections, as do many messy African dictatorships, but no one seriously considers them democracies. Even the most reductive account of democracy requires: a) multi-party elections, b) free speech and a public sphere in which to practice it, c) roughly equal access to offices and honors, and d) an uncorrupted judiciary and administrative state. The US has all of these to a larger degree than many other places in the world, but we're far from leaders in the field. As relative income inequality increases, the judiciary becomes more easily corrupted, most offices of consequence become increasingly inaccessible to the least advantaged members of society, and ultimately the public sphere becomes fully inaccessible to those without the resources to make themselves heard.

In the US, there are multiple parties, but it remains to be seen whether the party architecture is capable of making real changes to the political economy. I've got my eye on the inheritance tax, myself; I doubt Clinton or Obama would be more likely to reinstate the 'death tax' than their Republican fellows. Truly bodacious quantities of capital are concentrated in relatively few hands, and it's those families that will oppose any effort to reinstate the tax.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:20 PM on March 31, 2007


The current President has turned a deaf ear to the working class-- he obviously feels he doesn't need their support.

"What an impressive crowd: the haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite, I call you my base."

People live in places where the health care is all paid for and the college is all paid for and the old age is all paid for and they still have jobs, and in fact sometimes have 6 weeks of vacation in the summer.

We have the money for that. We just spend it on weapons.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:27 PM on March 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


> A couple of people are commenting that global capitalism has in fact made the poor poorer. Are you counting India and China? Or do you think only Americans deserve jobs?

The poor people in China are staging regular protests over the rising income inequality there, so I don't think they are really on the side of bring on the inequality.
...
afu's entirely right - China's Gini index has hit levels seen as indicative of a social crisis and the widening income gap is one of the major themes of public discourse here.

Hold on, you're both saying income inequality is rising - not disputed - and from that you're deducing that the poor are getting poorer. Is that true though? The two really aren't the same.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:40 PM on March 31, 2007


anotherpanacea: I don't think that, just because income inequality is held by some or even most people to be bad, saying it's so does not require proof. You haven't given any reasons to think so; the True Scotsman refers to your casual dismissal of SCDB's arguments as not real proof--I don't necessarily think it's all about socialist revolution or vicious cycles, but at least his analysis is considered and in-depth. He's about the only one in the thread that's provided that.

Okay, maybe I did get all touchy about the bullying thing. I'm just concerned that situations like this encourage LGF-style echo chambers to form; just because MeFi leans left is no justification for the sort of injudicious mobbing being directed at SCDB. Not that I don't think he can handle it. FWIW, I like MeFi because there's some marginal diversity of viewpoints, and generally the standards of argumentation are high enough.

PsychoKick: What in God's holy name are you blathering about? I'm not some sort of new-age hippie revolutionary, and I can't for the life of me extract any meaningful statements out of what you wrote. I mean, okay, sarcasm, but what the hell are you mocking?
posted by nasreddin at 4:52 PM on March 31, 2007


I'm not some sort of new-age hippie revolutionary

I know, but you're making the same mistakes they did. That's what I'm finding so laughable.

I mean, okay, sarcasm, but what the hell are you mocking?

This:

nasreddin: My argument is that social justice programs have a net entrenching effect on the system due to the factor I outlined, the types of things I suggest have a--however small and insignificant--de-legitimizing effect. I do not know if it's true; there are ways autonomization can be coopted as well, certainly. But the shift in perspective that focusing on autonomy provides is probably useful, simply because it's not inherently a dead end.

Having the poor "focus on autonomy" with the expectation that it will "shift their perspective" into something useful, because it has a "de-legitimizing effect" on the previous system that controlled them. Doesn't that sound familiar?

Hippie communes did this, the communist Chinese tried this out as an earlier re-education technique, and you can still find remnants of it in North Korea's Juche philosophy. It's a nice romantic theory, but it's never actually worked out on any usefully large scale. At best, it maintains a small minority of determined recluses. At worst, it's a great excuse for putting dissidents and undesirables in work camps.

And it's a wild goose chase anyway. As you mentioned, autonomy can be co-opted. Autonomous poor are still weak, and exist only at the mercy of the powerful rich. The rich can simply violate the poor's autonomy whenever they please.
posted by PsychoKick at 5:54 PM on March 31, 2007


SCDB's analysis was considered and in-depth? It was a handful of cliches poorly soldered together with a sports metaphor. I've waded in deeper kiddie pools.
posted by klangklangston at 5:55 PM on March 31, 2007


PsychoKick: Ah, OK. I think that your impression of what I'm suggesting is strange; I don't know what re-education camps have to do with this. Juche definitely does, however, and--laughable as it sounds, given that North Korea is hell on Earth--I don't think self sufficiency is all that bad as a philosophy. North Koreans are not the only ones who value it.

As for your suggestion that focusing on autonomy and delegitimization has never worked, I offer a counterexample: the American Revolution. If the consciousness shift (the crest of which was the pamphlet Common Sense) had never occurred, America would never have abandoned its harmful and illogical dependence and subordination to Great Britain.

The point is not that the Comintern is going to issue a memorandum to the effect that we should now delegitimize the state. Rather, it's a recognition of the fact that the traditional political method has reached its limits. There were plenty of nattering nabobs like you in 1776, saying much the same things you are.

First, I see nothing wrong with small groups of determined recluses. Second, do you really believe that America is going to start putting people who promote autonomy in concentration camps? I mean, Waco and Ruby Ridge do seem to indicate that sort of attitude, but I fail to understand why that's a sufficient reason to play along with the state. Don't tread on me, give me liberty or give me death, all that stuff.

And it's a wild goose chase anyway.


Maybe. But it's certainly not as if the rich aren't violating the poor in the status quo. And a properly developed theory of autonomy, with some notion of social defense and common responsibility, has great potential for limiting this violation. The state requires both coercion and hegemony, and undermining hegemony is the only possible way to escape it. I don't think there's going to be a revolution or anything, but looking at the available alternatives, a drive toward autonomization seems to be the most benign and the most potentially beneficial.

I don't know what you're suggesting we do instead. Raise taxes and increase the welfare system? Maybe we can elect Obama, he'll wave the magic wand and class oppression will disappear?
posted by nasreddin at 6:47 PM on March 31, 2007


The WalMart heirs can use that money to change the laws regarding unions, for example, or import duties or death duties.

Not "can," but "do."
posted by five fresh fish at 7:13 PM on March 31, 2007


Why would that be a bad thing? ... I sense an a priori assumption here, and I'd like someone to explain it.

It is anti-democratic.
posted by Chuckles at 7:53 PM on March 31, 2007


A couple of profs vs. a professional propagandist at the Cato Institute. Hmm....

Steven: check out the correlation between wealth distribution and hellish living conditions in societies. It's quite likely NOT a coincidental correlation.

When almost all wealth is controlled by very few, the massed that don't own the wealth (eg, you and me) are treated like human shit.

America has been on an unstopped trend toward concentrated wealth in the last decades (and really, you're a fucking idiot to argue otherwise). If it continues unabated, the a chances of America maintaining a functioning democracy are pretty slim.

When 100 men own 99% of the wealth, laws, constitutions, bills of right, etc, are merely dead letters. These men can and will do whatever the fuck they please, up to and including treating human beings like disposable razors. Human history is rife with this lesson. * (100 and 99% are numbers pulled out of my ass for rhetorical reasons).
posted by teece at 8:30 PM on March 31, 2007




>As for your suggestion that focusing on autonomy and delegitimization has never worked

I never said that it didn't work. It's just not the solution to huge disparities of power, because the act of attaining autonomy requires that you actually have some meaningful degree of power to get it. Autonomy is the result of power, not the path to it.

>I offer a counterexample: the American Revolution. If the consciousness shift (the crest of which was the pamphlet Common Sense) had never occurred, America would never have abandoned its harmful and illogical dependence and subordination to Great Britain.

And that consciousness shift would be entirely meaningless if the Americans didn't have the power and resources to back it up. The power disparity between the colonial Americans and Imperial British isn't comparable to the power disparity between the modern poor and rich.

>The point is not that the Comintern is going to issue a memorandum to the effect that we should now delegitimize the state. Rather, it's a recognition of the fact that the traditional political method has reached its limits.

Phrase it like that next time, and you'll get much better responses from frothing commie-haters like me. I guarantee it.

>There were plenty of nattering nabobs like you in 1776, saying much the same things you are.

Thank you. There are also plenty of nattering nabobs who think that the situation in 1776 between two landmasses separated by the Atlantic Ocean is in any way meaningfully applicable to the situation in 2007 between the poor and the rich within the same country.

>First, I see nothing wrong with small groups of determined recluses.

Oh, there's nothing inherently wrong with them. It's just that most people don't want to live like them, so it's not a viable large-scale solution. Cities and countries as we know them wouldn't exist otherwise.

>Second, do you really believe that America is going to start putting people who promote autonomy in concentration camps?

It's much easier to just trump up some drug/terrorism charges and throw them in prison if they get too troublesome.

>I mean, Waco and Ruby Ridge do seem to indicate that sort of attitude, but I fail to understand why that's a sufficient reason to play along with the state. Don't tread on me, give me liberty or give me death, all that stuff.

Hey, if you're so dead-set on fighting the state, I'd hope you're not so naive as to utilize the antiquated methods displayed at Waco and Ruby Ridge. Holing up in a compound worked great in the era of muskets and cannons, but things are kind of different now.

>Maybe. But it's certainly not as if the rich aren't violating the poor in the status quo. And a properly developed theory of autonomy, with some notion of social defense and common responsibility, has great potential for limiting this violation. The state requires both coercion and hegemony, and undermining hegemony is the only possible way to escape it.

And to do that, you need power. It's that simple. The mere attempt and desire to undermine hegemony won't magically remove the current power disparities that perpetuate it.

I don't think there's going to be a revolution or anything, but looking at the available alternatives, a drive toward autonomization seems to be the most benign and the most potentially beneficial.

I don't agree that it's the most benign nor potentially beneficial, but hey, if that's what you want.

>I don't know what you're suggesting we do instead. Maybe we can elect Obama, he'll wave the magic wand and class oppression will disappear?

Just off the top of my head, we can alter (not cut) military spending and development so that it provides more jobs and keeps more real capital into the middle & lower classes. People are getting antsy about the economy, and enough generals are fed up with Bush Jr's administration that it might be possible. I'd have to work out a bit more details later (if I still give a crap by then), but I'm certain it's more realistic and achievable than getting the poor to exercise power that they don't even have, so that they can live as autonomous recluses they probably don't want to be.

/ this is getting way too long.
posted by PsychoKick at 9:33 PM on March 31, 2007


I don't think that, just because income inequality is held by some or even most people to be bad, saying it's so does not require proof.... at least his [SCDB's] analysis is considered and in-depth.

Look, nasreddin, you seem like a nice guy, and I loved the "HERF DURF TU QUOQUE" comment, but you've stepped over the line into misreading and misquotation here. First, SCDB didn't provide his argument in a polite or thoughtful way, he linked to something he wrote a long time ago, which is both long and completely irrelevant to the question. I could do the same, but I didn't because it's pretty rude.

Second, and more important, I never said income inequality is bad, in itself, but rather that it is bad for democracy. Maybe democracy is bad. Maybe elites are better. I'm willing to allow that my preference for democracy is mostly a prejudice in favor of autonomy and legitimacy. I like having a say in the laws that govern me. As most elitists point out, the average citizen doesn't know or even care enough about policy to really participate meaningfully in their own self-government. But I still prefer democracy, even if it's only an ideal we are constantly failing to fully achieve.

However, when I say income inequality is bad FOR DEMOCRACY, I'm saying something that is formally true, for reasons having to do with the conceptual relationship between freedom, governing, and necessity. It's like saying "Circles are round," or "No bachelor is married:" it's a conclusion that can be reached a priori, from an analysis of the relevant concepts.

Here's how the analysis looks: I am not free to make a decision if I am forced to do it by necessity; the two concepts are contradictory. Consider the 'happy slave,' who claims that he always happens to want to do what his master orders him to do: is he free? Metaphysically, maybe... but in all the relevant political senses he's still a slave. If I owe my subsistence to another human being, I cannot claim to be free to participate in self-rule. Instead, I can only cast my vote or speak my mind as necessity demands.

This argument has previously been used AGAINST democracy, of course, but conditions currently prevail in many Western countries that allow citizens to act and speak freely because they are not indebted to other citizens, but rather to institutions like corporations, universities, non-profits, or the state itself. These inhuman accumulations of capital don't shackle our freedom in the same way as another human being would, though their involvement in our lives does militate in favor of mercantile and entrepreneurial values as opposed to, say, pastoral or feudal ones.

Unless you grew up indolently and independently wealthy, your own experience will bear this out. Corporations don't dominate us or foreclose our potential for political freedom: our bosses do, even if it's some nameless, faceless boss at 'headquarters' or 'the main office.' As such, it might just feel like a sort of impersonal domination, but the corporate system also prevents these 'bosses' from dominating employees in an inefficient manner. Even bosses are ruled by the bottom line, but all the 'bottom line' demands of us is that we preserve the rule of law and foster innovation. On the other hand, when families or individuals are able to control institutional magnitudes of wealth, they're not really hampered by concerns about efficiency or freedom, and that's a serious problem. It reintroduces domination and unwarranted privilege into the system; we become, at best, happy slaves.

Now, I'm obviously not suggesting a communist revolution, but that doesn't mean we have to deny that there's a problem. In fact, the intellectually honest thing to do here is to say: "There is a problem and we don't know how to solve it, except that all of our old methods seem to be failing." And that's about all the analysis I have to offer this evening.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:17 PM on March 31, 2007


That makes it much clearer. It's all I could ask for. Thanks.
posted by nasreddin at 10:28 PM on March 31, 2007


hoverboards don't work on water - no, I said what I said; that afu is correct about social unrest being related to income inequality in China.
If you're interested in poverty here, this article (by my former editor) is an insightful overview which also addresses the inequality angle. China is routinely praised for being the single largest contributor or to the reduction in the number of absolute poor in the world in the twentieth century, but not surprisingly the reality is more complex than the headline.
posted by Abiezer at 10:35 PM on March 31, 2007


Oh. I got trolled, hun? Well done.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:38 PM on March 31, 2007


For anybody with an hour or so to learn more about the issue: webcast.berkeley>Events>Robert Reich: How Unequal Can America Get Before We Snap?
posted by JoddEHaa at 2:18 PM on April 1, 2007


Erm, AP, I wasn't trolling. If I asked for supporting argumentation, and you provided it, why would I complain? I see where you're coming from now; before, all I heard was "shutupSCDBshutup can't you see there's a class struggle on."
posted by nasreddin at 9:03 PM on April 1, 2007


Here's a historical graph showing the income share of the top 20%, 1950-2000, based on US Census Bureau figures. It went from 42% in 1980 to 50% in 2005. Here's the latest data.

Steven C. Den Beste: Suppose that everyone's wealth and well-being was rising, but the wealth and well-being of the top tier was rising faster than that of the bottom tier.

That's not what's happening. For the bottom 20%, real household income doubled from the 1950s to the 1970s, but it's stagnated since then. (Latest data.)

Looking at the economy as a whole, two things are important: overall growth per capita, and how that growth is distributed. A growing economy in which all the gains from growth are going to the top 20% is very different from one in which the growth is evenly distributed (as was the case between World War II and the early 1970s). This is why income inequality matters.

In fact, even within the top 20% the picture is ... interesting. Paul Krugman:
... who are the winners from rising inequality? It's not the top 20 percent, or even the top 10 percent. The big gains have gone to a much smaller, much richer group than that.

A new research paper by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, "Where Did the Productivity Growth Go?," gives the details. Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn't a ticket to big income gains.

But income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that's not a misprint.

Just to give you a sense of who we're talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The center doesn't give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it's probably well over $6 million a year.
Plutarch: An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.
posted by russilwvong at 10:42 AM on April 2, 2007


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