Posts Tagged ‘income inequality’
March 9th, 2016 at 10:41 am
Quotable: Thomas Sowell on Income Inequality Obsession
Posted by Print

From Thomas Sowell, in his latest commentary entitled “Random Thoughts”:

Here is a trick question:  What percentage of American households have incomes in the top 10 percent?  Answer:  51 percent of American households are in the top 10 percent at some point in the course of a lifetime – usually in their older years.  Those who want us to envy and resent the top 10 percent are urging half of us to envy and resent ourselves.”

February 3rd, 2014 at 12:47 pm
Video: The Inequality Illusion
Posted by Print

CFIF’s Renee Giachino explains how President Obama’s push for higher taxes, bigger government and expanded welfare programs is the wrong approach to help the greatest number of people climb the economic ladder.

August 1st, 2013 at 5:22 pm
Obamacare Bites Its Handler
Posted by Print

The number of constituencies for Obamacare keeps shrinking everyday. From Elizabeth MacDonald at Fox Business:

Health reform is now causing job turmoil across the country in three key groups that the White House has depended on for support—local government, school workers and unions.

School districts in states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Utah, Nebraska, and Indiana are dropping to part-time status school workers such as teacher aides, administrators, secretaries, bus drivers, gym teachers, coaches and cafeteria workers. Cities or counties in states like California, Indiana, Kansas, Texas, Michigan and Iowa are dropping to part-time status government workers such as librarians, secretaries, administrators, parks and recreation officials and public works officials.

The next time you hear the president drone on about income inequality, remember that his signature domestic achievement has a nasty habit of kneecapping the working class. Even if the president’s gripe is that these people had low wages and no health insurance before he took office, consider the net effect of his tenure: they now have even lower wages (thanks to fewer hours) and still have no insurance. Heck of a job, Barry.

October 25th, 2012 at 6:32 pm
Income Inequality: It’s Easy to be Poor When We Don’t Count the Safety Net
Posted by Print

The American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur have an important (and devastating) piece in today’s Wall Street Journal breaking down the misleading facets of the left’s argument that the U.S. is currently suffering through a crisis of economic inequality. Here’s a particularly eye-opening excerpt:

In the first place, studies that measure income inequality largely focus on pretax incomes while ignoring the transfer payments and spending from unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicaid and other safety-net programs. Politicians who rest their demands for more redistribution on studies of income inequality but leave out the existing safety net are putting their thumb on the scale.

Second and more important, it is well known that people’s earnings in general rise over their working lifetime. And so, for example, a person who decides to invest more in education may experience a lengthy period of low income while studying, followed by significantly higher income later on. Snapshot measures of income inequality can be misleading.

Thomas Sowell frequently makes a point complimentary to Hassett and Mathur’s second observation above: that measuring income inequality over time tends to be deeply misleading because membership in any given income bracket is highly fluid, with people’s income often shifting dramatically over time. Thus, someone who’s in the bottom quintile of income in today’s measurements may be in the second quintile from the top in 15 years’ time. But we tend to analyze these groups as if their composition is static.

Hassett and Mathur’s first point, however, is the one that always bowls me over. If the point of a safety net is to remove people from the perils of indigence, yet the government refuses to factor those provisions into measurements of income, we end up with a perpetually imperiled underclass that only exists on paper. As Mark Twain said (supposedly quoting Disraeli), there are three kinds of lies: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

November 18th, 2010 at 11:20 pm
Setting the Record Straight on Tax Cuts, Unemployment, and the Economy
Posted by Print

As the lame duck Congress prepares to take up the issue of what to do about the expiring Bush tax cuts, liberal pundits are busy proving to the American people that no journalism school in America provides economics education. A few points to make with your liberal friends as you argue economics the next time you join them for a non-fat soy latte made from fair trade ingredients:

  • Extending the Bush Tax Cuts Won’t “Cost” Anything — Liberals can’t stop carping about the $700 billion “cost” of extending tax cuts for Americans making over $250,000 a year. This is preposterous. The absence of tax increases isn’t a cost to the federal government. If it was, then every dollar kept in private hands instead of transferred to Washington would be a cost. Private businesses don’t account for imaginary revenues as costs, and there’s no reason for government to either. This is just an excuse for not bringing expenditures into line with “revenues” (i.e. money confiscated from you).
  • A Shortage of Tax Revenue Isn’t the Root of America’s Fiscal Problems — The class warfare rhetoric at the heart of the tax fight is a red herring for the real issue at hand. Virtually all taxes kill economic activity. Of course, some tax revenue will always be necessary to finance the basic functions of government, but beyond that baseline taxes are actively destructive. Thus the real choice when it comes to upper-level earners’ tax rates isn’t whether they should be soaked or not. It’s whether you think the federal government is doing too little (in which case taxes need to increase and more private economic activity should be killed) or too much (in which case spending needs to decrease).
  • Income Inequality is a Meaningless Metric — Proponents of aggressively progressive taxation who are prone to ideological rather than practical justifications of their beliefs have increasingly been leaning on an argument that America suffers from growing income inequality. This is specious for two reasons. First, it presumes that there is an ideal distribution of wealth that exists free of merit. The more free an economy is, however, the more income is a function of how much value one creates in the marketplace. So do we want a nation of C students (socialized mediocrity) or a nation where the highest achievers get A’s and the lowest ones are held back a year (with generous welfare benefits, we should add)? Also, these numbers are absolutely useless from a statistical perspective. Samples of income tiers measure groups, not individuals. So when we say that the rich are richer and the poor are poorer than 20 years ago, we ignore the dynamism of the American economy — and the resulting fact that many individuals who were on the lower rungs of the economic ladder two decades ago have moved up, and many at the top have moved down. This interpretation also ignores the fact that the gap is less important than the actual numbers. If you have $200 and I have $100, are incomes are closer to parity than if you have $1 billion and I have $1 million. But in the latter scenario, we’re both better off individually and society (if it consists of just you and I) is better off as a whole. Now imagine extrapolating that analysis to an entire nation
  • Virtually Every Number You See About Poverty in America is a Lie — For one simple reason: government calculations of poverty do NOT factor in benefits conveyed by government. To prove the point using an unrealistic example, a family of four making $40,000 a year but receiving $60,000 in government assistance, would still be captured in government statistics as making $40,000 a year, even though their actual income would be $100,000.
  • Unemployment Benefits are NOT a Form of Economic Stimulus — From Nancy Pelosi to Nicolas Kristof, every empty head on the left seems to have the idea that unemployment benefits are a form of economic stimulus rattling around inside it. The idea is that because the poor have the greatest need for liquidity (and will thus spend the cash the quickest) unemployment greases the wheels of commerce. This is a basic Keynesian fallacy: thinking of the economy only in terms of consumption. But if this is true, why wouldn’t the road to recovery be paved with every American emptying out their bank account for a trip to Nordstrom’s? Maximum economic efficiency is achieved by putting money to the use that provides the greatest benefit relative to the cost to the individual. In some cases, this will be consumption. But in others it will be investment or savings. Unemployment benefits can be justified on humanitarian grounds, but not on mechanical economic ones (indeed, excess unemployment benefits drive up unemployment — not a surprise if you remember that you always get more of what you subsidize). Paychecks generally provide the basis for a sounder economy than food stamps.