Posted by Wordsmith on 26 December, 2013 at 1:29 pm. 5 comments already!


In his widely noted speech, President Obama said that “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility” is “the defining challenge of our time.” This belief makes Mr. Obama unique: Unlike the other presidents since World War II, he places inequality above economic growth as the organizing principle of U.S. economic policy. The president’s Dec. 4 speech, at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress, also stressed that increasing inequality is a “decades-long trend”—which carries with it the strong implication that the country needs to reverse the direction it has taken for the last three decades. But like so many of his other pronouncements, the assumptions behind his defining challenge are misleading.

Virtually all of the data cited by the left to decry the supposed explosion of income inequality, as Lee Ohanian and Kip Hagopian point out in their seminal paper, “The Mismeasure of Inequality” (Policy Review, 2011), use a Census Bureau definition of “money income” that excludes taxes, transfer payments like Medicaid, Medicare, nutrition assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and even costly employee benefits such as health insurance.

Thus the data that is conventionally used to calculate the so-called Gini coefficient—the most commonly used measure of income inequality—ignore America’s highly progressive income tax system and the panoply of benefits and transfer payments. According to Messrs. Ohanian and Hagopian, once the effect of taxes and transfer payments is taken into account, “inequality actually declined 1.8% during the 16-year period between 1993 and 2009, when the Gini coefficient dropped from .395 to .388.”

Read the rest of Robert Grady’s op-ed at WSJ:

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