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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 11, 2010 6:49 PM. The previous post in this blog was Have a 'dog -- free. The next post in this blog is You can't handle the truth. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

True colors

Ever since I attended the Edward Tufte program this past spring, I've been on the constant lookout for killer graphics. Here's a good one -- a visual display of how wealth in the United States has increased under Republican and Democratic Presidents. It shows pretty convincingly that everybody does better under Democratic Presidents -- but especially the poor.

Comments (6)

Did you notice that the very talented creator of that graphic has an RSS feed on her excellent site?

http://www.visualizingeconomics.com/

Great site and fabulous resource...if a more than a bit depressing.
Thanks, George and Jack

Great Post

As an Economist who comes under frequent fire for advocating a more equal (but not completely equal) distribution of income this once again allows me the opportunity to express the logic of the position, (and expose myself to a personal attack as opposed to reasoned opposition.)

The U. S. economy is driven by aggregate demand. When income growth accrues to the lower and middle income Americans, their increased spending drives investment and consumption, which leads to higher growth for all. If the growth in income accrues to the wealthiest Americans, the reduced spending and investment results in lower growth, not for all but for the middle and lower income groups.

Thus the advocacy of policies which direct more income to the lower and middle income groups because it results in higher national income growth, and the opposition to policies that result in higher concentration of wealth and income to the top earners because it results in lower national income growth, lower employment, higher poverty, and all of the other problems associated with a low growth economy.

In the long run the lower U. S. growth and higher unemployment that we have today and that will continue indefinitely is the direct result of tax and economic policy of the Bush administration. Sorry idealogues, that is the economic facts of life.

Sid

It's really a shame that your use of plain English and logic is more readily referenced by the powers that be.

I say that as a right-leaning guy.


I should preview before I post. I meant "It's really a shame that your use of plain English and logic isn't more readily referenced by the powers that be."

OK, so we know that we had Republican Presidents 20 out of the 28 years between 1980 and 2008, so any trend that emerges in any data base encompassing that time period must be due to Republican Presidents. I got it.

When I see the income equality/inequality data trends and rather facile explanations I have to say that I'm more than a bit skeptical, wondering how many other ways the data could be modeled, on what basis explanatory variables were included and excluded and what are the multiple-step operational explanations (not the simplistic political Right or Left, less-is-more or more-is-less dogmatisms).

For openers there have been some pretty profound changes in the way income has been defined over the decades, with the biggest changes coming after 1980. I remember well working for the extremely well-off Johnson brothers in the 70's -- most of their food, all of their boy toys, many bad habits and transportation, these and more were paid for by their company, didn't show up on the personal/family income books at all. My guess is that the Johnsons took half of their compensation in kind. Those days are gone.

As another example, on the low end of the scale, multiple exclusions from income (like IRA's and 401K's) came into being or into full force after 1980. Also at the low end, there has been a proliferation of new benefits not reported as taxable income. And the cost or scope of many benefits (and their utility) has increased substantially as well. How are low-end exclusions and the impacts of benefits on compensation handled in the inequality studies?

Also, at the bottom of the income ladder in the 70's, I recall being permitted to sign a declaration so I could waive income tax withholding and didn't have to file a tax return, so I was a low-ender not in the data base, not driving down the low-end averages. These don't have to withhold or file provisions and a much more informal, unautomated transactional processes once kept low-end people like myself at the time off the books. Also the increased availability of tax credits is an incentive in more recent history for the lowest income earners to file tax returns and be included in the data book.

Another issue is household incomes have been profoundly affected by increased female participation in the labor force. In these longitutinal studies how is this accounted for? A very large number of the high income growth households are professional couples that were virtually non-existent in the 50's, 60's and 70's. How much of the reported increase in inequality is due to this phenomenon?

I've not studied these issues in detail, but many years spent analyzing other market and economic data tell me that there are probably half a dozen less provocative explanations (other than political stripe) for the data by income group laying out the way it does.



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