Monday, April 22

Americans are worried about the gap between rich and poor, but do not trust the government do anything about it

"Since the 1970s, income inequality in the United States has increased at a historic rate. In 1970, the richest 1 percent of Americans enjoyed 9 percent of total national pre-tax income. In 2011, by contrast, that share had risen to 19.8 percent. And this large increase in inequality has not been softened by more progressive tax policy. Tax rates on the top 1 percent of taxpayers have fallen over the same period.
"Such a reshaping of the income distribution was unlikely to go unnoticed, and indeed, surveys show that Americans are generally knowledgeable about the rise in income inequality. Using survey data from 2002, the political scientist Larry M. Bartels showed that three-quarters of Americans believed inequality has increased over the previous two decades. The majority of those respondents said this trend was a 'bad thing.'
"And yet over the past 30 years, Americans have also become less supportive of government efforts to redistribute from high- to low-income households." ...
"On one hand, liberals can take heart in the news that Americans are deeply troubled about the current level of income inequality. On the other hand, conservatives may be glad to hear that despite this concern, Americans have a healthy skepticism that government can be trusted to do much about it."
Our Feelings About Inequality: It’s Complicated (NYT)


  1. Americans love to believe that they can be millionaires.All you have to do is discover the "next big thing" Look at the number of people who've risen from obscurity to become mega-wealthy. People believe"hey, I could have done that" Maybe they don't want to rock the boat for when it's their turn.

  2. I have a formulation in my head about scaling - how as total wealth increases, income inequality will increase by simple (simplistic?) measures, even if wealth/living standards are increasing for poorer people.
    A large company today can serve more people than ever before so therefore generates more total income... a good employee who improves such a company therefore generates value for it, and also more wealth than ever before.

  3. Also, the conclusion of the article nicely reveals a debatable point assumed away by the authors :

    Instead, [liberals] face what seems to be a much more difficult task: convincing [the skeptical public] that their government is up to the task of addressing it.

    Um, might actually making sure the government really is up to the task be more difficult than selling it? and more important? or do we just assume the competency?