We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.
Tag Archives | Inequality
Occupy George is a (presumably illegal) attempt to convey the reality of wealth distribution in the United States to the public by adding pertinent information to paper currency and circulating it as needed. Now your money will have informational as well as purchase value. Download their templates or order the custom stamps, and you can begin minting your own Occupy George bills at home:
Money talks, but not loud enough for the 99%. By circulating dollar bills stamped with fact-based infographics, Occupy George informs the public of America’s daunting economic disparity one bill at a time.
Tax the rich. Those bastards. I get why people who aren’t rich hate those that are. No one really cares what they have, they only care what they have relative to others. When there is inequality, and there always is, even the hyper intelligent call for a redistribution of wealth. It’s an enduring longing for us as a species, and no evidence to the contrary will convince people it just doesn’t work in any large group. What I really didn’t understand until recently though is why so many rich Americans seem to loathe their richness as much as everyone else does. Many in Silicon Valley want to tax the rich into the middle class and let government spend and spend and spend. The super rich tech elite flock to Obama, joining in the call to screw the rich as loudly as all the rest. Then I figured it out. As I wrote then, the super rich won’t mind at all if we “tax the rich” as it’s currently defined. That’s because people who are super rich don’t really pay taxes...
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Pretty much everybody thinks they’re better than average. But in some cultures, people are more self-aggrandizing than in others. Until now, national differences in “self-enhancement” have been chalked up to an East-West individualism-versus-collectivism divide. In the West, where people value independence, personal success, and uniqueness, psychologists have said, self-inflation is more rampant. In the East, where interdependence, harmony, and belonging are valued, modesty prevails.Now an analysis of data gathered from 1,625 people in 15 culturally diverse countries finds a stronger predictor of self-enhancement: economic inequality.
“We don’t know the precise mechanism, but it seems unlikely that it is primarily an East-West difference,” says University of Kent research associate Steve Loughnan. “It’s got to do with how your society distributes its resources.” The study — whose 19 collaborators represent 16 universities around the globe — will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Via Who Rules America?, a financial manager provides his perspective on the wealthiest one percent and 0.1 percent of Americans — i.e. his clients — regarding who they are, how they got so rich, and why he worries that they have too much power:
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Membership in this elite group is likely to come from being involved in some aspect of the financial services or banking industry, real estate development involved with those industries, or government contracting.
Recently, I spoke with a younger client who retired from a major investment bank in her early thirties, net worth around $8M. Since I knew she held a critical view of investment banking, I asked if her colleagues talked about or understood how much damage was created in the broader economy from their activities. Her answer was that no one talks about it in public but almost all understood and were unbelievably cynical, hoping to exit the system when they became rich enough.
Warren Buffett says we need a significantly higher income tax for the super-rich. But could that argument be a red herring? Partial Objects writes that the real conversation we need to be having is about taxing wealth – i.e., Buffett’s $45 billion fortune, not the paltry millions he made in 2010:
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Warren Buffett wants us to stop coddling the super-rich. He argues for superlatively higher taxes on those with incomes greater than $1 million a year.
Let’s say we take Buffett’s advice, and we raise taxes so that those highest 400 income earners pay an additional 20% more in income taxes (i.e. 41.5 instead of 21.5). That would mean an additional $18 billion in revenue. Nice, right?
The US doesn’t tax wealth, but other countries do. If we did, at a modest 10%, it would mean an additional $140 billion in revenue every year. But we never talk about taxing wealth, only income.
In an effort to contain class resentment stemming from a growing wealth gap, China has outlawed public ads that extol luxurious or ‘high end’ things. Are they onto something? Partial Objects takes note:
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The clean up means commercials posted or aired in public can no longer include words like “supreme”, “royal”, “luxury” or “high class”, all of which frequently appear in Chinese promotions for real estate developments, vehicles and wines.
This move is designed to deal with the growing resentment about the wealth gap that exists between (some) urban and rural Chinese.
But note that they aren’t banning the wealth itself, or taxing it to oblivion; but managing the appearance of wealth, the description of wealth. It’s still okay to sell high end real estate, just don’t describe it as “elite” or “luxury.”
The Chinese government is fighting a linguistic battle, not an economic one. Anyone who sees a nice car may want one, but it is the description of that car and not the car itself that makes it an aspirational good.
In a fantastic piece for Vanity Fair, acclaimed economist Joseph Stiglitz discusses what America’s vast income inequality means for our future — in short, how it will corrode and distort every aspect of society:
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Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this.
First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible. Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality—such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests—undermine the efficiency of the economy.