Patterico's Pontifications


Godwinning the income inequality debate

Filed under: General — Karl @ 10:18 am

[Posted by Karl]

Given the internet, I’m not surprised James Pethokoukis beat me to this by a couple of hours, as I intend to rely on his prior work a bit:

Liberals think there are lots of ideas that intelligent Americans just aren’t supposed to challenge. If they do, they’ll be labeled “deniers,” intentionally raising a nasty comparison to Holocaust rejectionists. It’s politics at its absolute lowest.

Among the unchallengeable dogmata: the Obama stimulus created millions of jobs, Obamacare will save trillions of dollars, Dodd-Frank prevents future bank bailouts, policy uncertainty isn’t an issue hampering the recovery. And, of course, global warming poses an existential threat to civilization and humanity. Make that an “undeniable” threat.

You can now add “income inequality” to the list, thanks to New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait. In a column headlined “The Ideological Fantasies of Inequality Deniers,” Chait writes: “Rising income inequality, like climate change, is an ideologically inconvenient issue for conservatives. … The underlying facts, like the facts of climate change, are stark. Over the last few decades, income growth for most Americans has slowed to a crawl, while income for the very rich has exploded.”

Chait’s attack targets Rep. Raul Ryan for a speech he gave at the Heritage Foundation.  Thunders Chait: “Don’t confuse Paul Ryan with the facts. If studies run up against Ryan’s ideology, then the studies must give way.”  Chait’s argument has a couple of teeny-weeny flaws.

First, none of Chait’s quotes from the speech have Ryan denying income inequality.  Indeed, if you read the entire speech — which I recommend — Ryan never denies income inequality.  You would think that if you were going to insinuate that someone is akin to a Nazi sympathizer, you would want to have evidence of the “denial” at issue.  But you are not Jon Chait — unless you are Jon Chait, in which case I’m sorry for you, dude.  Rather, Ryan argues in the speech that American policy should be focused on upward income mobility, rather than redistribution of wealth.

Second, in discussing mobility, Ryan said this:

The Treasury Department’s latest study on income mobility in America found that during the ten-year period starting in 1996, roughly half of the taxpayers who started in the bottom 20 percent had moved up to a higher income group by 2005.

Meanwhile, half of all taxpayers ended up in a different income group at the end of ten years. Many moved up, and some moved down, but economic growth resulted in rising incomes for most people over this period.

Another recent survey of over 500 successful entrepreneurs found that 93 percent came from middle-class or lower-class backgrounds. The majority were the first in their families to launch a business.

Those studies are consistent with a recent study by a Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, covering 2001-07, and a Census Bureau study of US households in poverty.  To be sure, there are studies like one Chait cites, suggesting there is less income mobility in the US than in various European countries — but there are studies pointing the other way, too.  (Indeed, had Ryan chosen to expressly address income inequality, as opposed to income mobility, he could have cited a number of studies suggesting the issue is overstated and expert opinion that income inequality has its benefits, promoting innovation and economic success — a position contrary to the right’s supposed denial of the phenomenon.)  If Ryan is to be accused of ignoring “the studies,” despite having cited studies, then Chait is equally guilty.

Less than three months ago, Chait wrote:

Conservative pundits, while usually slanting their account in highly partisan and often misleading terms, do a fairly good job of grasping and explaining the fact that the two parties fundamentally disagree on the causes of and solutions to the economic crisis and the long-term deficit. In this sense, a Rush Limbaugh listener may well be better informed about the causes of the impasse than listener of NPR or other mainstream organs. The former will have in his mind a wildly slanted version of the basic political landscape, while the latter’s head will be filled with magical thinking.

When it comes to income inequality and mobility, it’s Chait wearing the magical thinking cap.  Unable to acknowledge that debatable questions are in fact debatable, Chait slinks into the gutter, insulting the memory of the Holocaust in the process.  It is the sort of tactic employed when losing a debate.


42 Responses to “Godwinning the income inequality debate”

  1. Ding!

    Karl (f07e38)

  2. Racist!

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  3. Karl – See Michael Moore stridently denying he is part of the 1% on Piers Morgan.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  4. This post to be elevated (in green-text headline!) to’s main page in 3, 2 …

    Mitch (341ca0)

  5. On income and economic inequality see also Reicard Epstein (NYU Law):

    T (400783)

  6. Excellent content, elegantly presented. Patterico and his readers are so fortunate you post here.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  7. Anyone who uses “Denier” to discuss their ideological pet peeve – other than Holocaust Denial – is a piece of shit plain and simple.

    [note: released from moderation. –Stashiu]

    SPQR (26be8b)

  8. Second on Richard Epstein’s interview on The News Hour (PBS) –
    an excellent defenistration of the “inequality” emotionalism.

    As much as the Left decries “Trickle-down Economics”, their theories promote “trickle-up poverty” as they rob capital from the top, making the rich poor, but always failing to improve the lot of those who they say they represent.

    “You can’t make the poor rich by making the rich poorer”
    – Abraham Lincoln

    Another Drew - Restore the Republic/Obama Sucks! (1e1c13)

  9. Duh……………godwinning.

    DohBiden (d54602)

  10. Thanks for another solid blog post, Karl.

    Dustin (b2fb78)

  11. Thanks, y’all!

    Karl (f07e38)

  12. “[the head of a] listener of NPR, [CNBC, etc.].. will be filled with magical thinking.”

    From zerohedge: 12 month forward estimates of earnings in Equities business forecasts are averaging -8.5%.

    Note Amazon yesterday missing market expectations and announcing lower guidance.

    I don’t know about the next dweeb but we get dry goods, groceries, etc., from Amazon and our order recurring orders mostly go up, up, up.

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  13. “Rising income inequality, like climate change, is an ideologically inconvenient issue for conservatives.

    Warmist Cult Hoax aside, the main cause of inequality is the policy of cheapening labor. They way they have done that is by flooding the labor market with illegal aliens and poverty immigrants, as well as the fact that in a global free trade market our labor has to compete with global labor if the job is even going to be legitimate. The lowest paid worker sets the going rate. Our workers are competing with near slave labor.

    Now look at what they have done to the truckers. They are sending Mexican truckers into the US under the guise of “free trade”, but it’s a nonreciprocating deal. The only reason to agree to this situation is because you want to drive down the wages of the few remaining legitimate jobs that you couldn’t ship out of the country or import from China.

    Both parties are guilty as hell. If you want to call me a “protectionist”, then you need to admit that you want to drive all wages down to Chinese peasant levels. Admit that and we’ll discuss why that is a bad idea in the US.

    j curtis (276fb4)

  14. Legal or illegal, immigrants come here because there is a way up, something that does not exist for them in their home countries. And, once here, they usually start at the bottom and work their way up (or provide their kids a way to do so). If the flow of immigrants is constant and less than the absorption/upwardly-mobile rate they hold down average incomes. We probably have seen some of that lately.

    BUT there is the other factor of native citizens who never get anywhere in life. We have also been seeing more of that lately, and it is largely an educational problem: our public schools suck.

    Neither of these issues is particularly the fault of Republicans.

    Kevin M (4eb9c8)

  15. 14, 15. Good stuff.

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  16. We could also greatly reduce income equality by again destroying most of the industrial base of Europe, Russia and Japan. For some reason, progs never recommend this, despite it being responsible for much of the relative level of income inequality in the US during the 50s-70s.

    Karl (f07e38)

  17. I think destroying China would be sufficient.

    Kevin M (4eb9c8)

  18. “We could also greatly reduce income equality by again destroying most of the industrial base of Europe, Russia and Japan.”

    Karl – Good thought but I have some other targets we might want to think about. Whatever happened to that neutron bomb thingy? I wouldn’t want to damage the oil fields.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  19. A very interesting post, Karl. It’s disheartening at times to see what higher education has done to dampen the critical thinking skills of people like Chait. Never an honest analysis of nearly anything can be expected to come from them.

    ColonelHaiku (fbf87d)

  20. Not even feminists are safe from Maobamas fascism.

    DohBiden (d54602)

  21. daleyrocks,

    True, but perhaps not needed. All the other bombing would drop the demand for oil significantly.

    Karl (37b303)

  22. Chait and his media ilk know full well that their readers will never ever bother to watch or to read Ryan’s actual speech. Chait knows he can interpret the speech for his readers any way he chooses, and can get away with it. Chait knows his article will be linked at lefty blogs far and wide. So if Chait says “X”, it will automatically become part of the left’s conventional wisdom about Ryan–despite the article’s lack of truth. Anyone who challenges Chait’s “version” at any of the linked blogs will be accused of being a slave to Limbaugh and “Faux News”. The whole drill is so predictable and so tiresome.

    elissa (6f23e9)

  23. They are sending Mexican truckers into the US under the guise of “free trade”, but it’s a nonreciprocating deal.

    Curtis, who is “they”? You spout that magical thinking like a pro, I mean a union boss.

    Mike K (9ebddd)

  24. Curtis, who is “they”? You spout that magical thinking like a pro, I mean a union boss.

    Comment by Mike K — 10/27/2011 @ 5:14 pm

    Most truck drivers are small businessmen who have huge truck payments and they spend more on fuel than they put in the bank. And you want them to compete with Mexican truckers with subsidized cheap Mexican fuel on US soil. Thanks for showing yourself and proving my case.

    j curtis (276fb4)

  25. “Of course I’m not. How can I be in the 1 percent?”

    Michael Moore must purchase two seats in First Class when he travels by air… and one more for his oversized ego.

    ColonelHaiku (fbf87d)

  26. Michael Moore is so fat you need to take two buses and a subway to get on his good side.

    DohBiden (d54602)

  27. To save time in the future, I will sum up every leftist argument. We can call it the left-wing argument for everything, or LWAE:

    LWAE: Here is a bad thing. This bad thing needs a solution. The only solution is government. If you disagree, you are stupid, racists, etc.

    Insert any issue into the bad thing slot. It always works.

    Ag80 (ec45d6)

  28. For example:

    Michael Moore is fat. He should not be fat. The government should pass a law to help fat people from being fat. If you disagree, you hate fat people.

    Ag80 (ec45d6)

  29. Ag80, that is hilarious and true.

    It also applies to the war on drugs.

    norcal (ce4853)

  30. PF–

    Please come back. Amazing site when you’re posting, lumpy oatmeal when you’re not.

    Kevin Stafford (abdb87)

  31. See Michael Moore stridently denying he is part of the 1% on Piers Morgan.
    Comment by daleyrocks — 10/27/2011 @ 10:32 am

    — Well, first of all, everything Michael Moore does is strident. More to the point, he used to be part of the 1%, but then he dropped back to dwell among us 99-percenters, due to all of those trips he’s made to Cuba over the years in order to receive the best health care in the world . . . also, he bought a few cows . . . followed by cheesecake for dessert.

    Icy (0cd2f4)

  32. Kevin Stafford,

    You have it exactly backwards.

    If I ever saw you any more I could explain the absence. Dinner?

    Patterico (9cc216)

  33. Opposition to communism is racism…………..hating on che guevara the biggest racist is racism.

    /Lefty hysterics

    DohBiden (d54602)

  34. Patterico you make this site sexy.

    DohBiden (d54602)

  35. Whoop, there it is…MANCRUSH!

    WeReportYouDecide (fbf87d)

  36. Comment by Ag80 — 10/27/2011 @ 8:20 pm

    A marriage made in Heaven:
    Janet ‘Lil Sis’ Incompetano and Michael Moore!

    AD-RtR/OS! (ca8ec9)

  37. Hey didn’t Janet Napoliassclowno agree with the norway shooter was a right wing extremist shat?

    DohBiden (d54602)

  38. Would you not be bitter, too, if folk kept saying “Jonathan, that article is just another piece of chait !” ?

    When leftie places spread his articles around, are they chait-mongering ?

    Alasdair (b18a49)

  39. I just got back from my local farmer’s market and there were about five people handing out flyers about a rally in Pasadena next weekend aimed at encouraging people to take they money out of large banks.

    That’s a great idea. Let’s start a run on the banks and create another 30’s Depression.

    Obama marshal law is next.

    AZ Bob (4f517e)

  40. And these people say if you oppose the EPA you want things to not be enviromentally pure or something.

    DohBiden (d54602)

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.3894 secs.