The Rich, the Right, and the Facts: Deconstructing the Income Distribution Debate

In 1992, economist Paul Krugman, now a New York Times columnist, published this article in the Fall issue of  “The American Prospect”. Today, his assertions hold up, especially in answer to the conservative critics of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in a Twenty-First Century.”

Paul Krugman During the mid-1980s, economists became aware that something unexpected was happening to the distribution of income in the United States. After three decades during which the income distribution had remained relatively stable, wages and incomes rapidly became more unequal. Academic researchers soon began arguing vigorously about the causes of the growth in inequality: was it global competition, government policy, changing technology, or some other factor? What nobody, whatever his or her political stripe, questioned was the fact that there had been a dramatic change in income distribution.

The growth in income inequality in the United States since the 1970s is hardly an inconspicuous part of the economic landscape. On the contrary, it is apparent in virtually every economic statistic, and colors nearly everything about our national life. You may accept this trend or deplore it, but one might have thought that nobody could seriously deny it. The surprise lesson of the income distribution controversy, then, is what it says about today’s conservative mind-set. It turns out that many conservatives, for all their anti-totalitarian rhetoric, have Orwellian instincts: if the record doesn’t say what you wish it did, hide it or fudge it. There are substantive issues about income distribution. Nobody really knows all the reasons why incomes at the top have soared while those at the bottom have plunged. Still less is there a consensus about what kinds of policies might limit or reverse the trend. But it seems that many conservatives not only don’t want to discuss substance: they prefer not to face reality, and to live in a fantasy world in which the 1980s turned out the way they were supposed to, not the way they did.

Sorry for knowing the main reason why ‘incomes at the top have soared’: it is a human nature which always will find a way how to get more to myself. I.V. 


About basicrulesoflife

Year 1935. Interests: Contemporary society problems, quality of life, happiness, understanding and changing ourselves - everything based on scientific evidence.
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