May 232012

Real Average After Tax Income

Of all the many banners being waved around the world by disgruntled protesters from Chile to Australia the one that reads, “We Are the 99%” is the catchiest.

It so turns out that it is also supported by some solid economic data. A report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) points out that, on average,  income inequality in America has not risen dramatically over the past 20 years — when the top 1% of earners are excluded. With them, we see a dramatically different picture.

The underlying causes that allow those at the top to prosper are disputed, but the CBO provides some ammunition on that as well. The biggest component of the increase in after-tax income for the top one percent is so-called “business income” as opposed to income from labour or investments (although one has to concede that these concepts are difficult to untangle). No matter; the data are

significant because they tend to support two prejudicial theories: First, that a system that works well for the very richest has delivered returns on labour that are “disappointing” for everyone else. Second, that the people at the top have made out like bandits over the past few decades, and that now everyone else must pick up the tab.

Of course it is a little more complicated than that. But the downturn in the economy will heat up the normally warm feelings in America of the 99% towards the 1%, and data such as this will add fuel to the fire.

 Posted by at 6:04 pm

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