Vanity Fair, to which I begrudgingly subscribe (anything that keeps Hitchens on a payroll can’t be that bad, right?), brought my blood to a boil this morning when I read their latest article on ‘inequality.’

Here’s the gist:
“Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income – an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.”

Hmmm. Okay Mr. Stiglitz, let’s think about this one:
  • Even if the top one percent made/earned (“take”? take from who, exactly?) 25% of the nation’s “income,” in 2008 the top 1 percent of tax returns paid 38.0 percent of all federal individual income taxes.
  • Since when has economics been a zero sum game?
  • Stiglitz makes a thinly-veiled comparison between the wealthiest Americans to oligarchs in Russia. I would compare the US government to a dilapidated playground that puts it in their favor, but I see no reason to condemn people playing by the faulty institutions that have been developed. Corporatism, rent-seeking, and other elements pervert the income of the top, but it is also hard to say if people in the bottom 1% deserve so much wealth when everyone earns it in a context of a far from perfect free market.
  • Lowering tax rates on capital gains promotes investment. When people know they will yield more from an investment, they will be inclined to make more.
  • Wait, I think someone covered this already…

Clearly there is much more to say. Everyone is welcome to contribute their observations…

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