Liberal Programs Deserve Blame for Income Inequality

The Congressional Budget Office documents income gains for everyone, not just the wealthy.


Liberals are treating a new Congressional Budget Office study showing that income inequality increased in America over the last three decades as the smoking gun they'd always been looking for—the ultimate indictment of America, capitalism, and apple pie.

The Nation's George Vornick wrote a piece titled "Yes, Virginia, There Is Income Inequality," billing the CBO's finding as "dramatic." And he wondered whether the study, released as the Occupy Wall Street protests gather steam, would finally force the Republicans on the deficit reduction super committee to face some "uncomfortable truths." New York magazine's Jonathan Chait wasted no time in accusing those not in a tizzy over the study of being "blinkered ideologues" and "income inequality deniers."

But if not everyone is alarmed by dubious claims about rising Gini co-efficients, a metric that measures income inequality, is it because they are "blinkered ideologues" and "deniers." No. Income inequality tells us zilch about the only thing that really matters: Are the lives of Americans, rich, poor, and in between, getting better or worse?

The finding that generated the most headlines was that the after-tax household income of the top 1 percent of Americans grew by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007. But this figure was based on outdated pre-recession data that omitted 2008 and 2009, when the "1 percenters" saw a decade's worth of gains wiped out. This is nothing to weep over. They took the risk and they lost.

But is the fate of those lower on the totem pole cause for panic? Not really. The study reports that in the same period, households in the top quintile saw a 65 percent income gain; the vast middle in the 21st to 80th percentiles saw about a 40 percent gain; and the bottom quintile saw an 18 percent gain.

In other words, no group lost ground or even stagnated. So why all this breast-beating?

Few, besides vulgar Marxists, believe in the "immiseration of the masses" theory of capitalism anymore—the idea that the wealth of the top few is extracted by exploiting the labor of the bottom many. Burying this notion is one of the enduring intellectual victories of market theorists.

The post-liberalization successes of India and China have convinced even ardent liberals that markets play a crucial role in raising productivity and relieving scarcity, vastly expanding the proverbial social pie so that everyone has more to go around.

Of course, some gain more than others. But so what? Isn't an unequal distribution of wealth preferable to an equal distribution of poverty? Is there any amount of inequality that liberal worrywarts would accept? Suppose the CBO had found that every group's income increased by exactly 65 percent. Would they celebrate everyone's good fortune or mourn the unwavering income gap? The question answers itself.

If liberals accept the market's productive capacity but reject its distributive verdict, it's because they think of the market as an abstraction that spews out wealth like a spigot, with who gets what being completely up for grabs. Rich people get more, they believe, because they are more skilled at clawing their way to the head of the line.

But in functioning markets, there is a connection between creating and gaining wealth. Those on the front lines of wealth creation get more than those at the back, regardless of whether they began as rich people or poor. Steve Jobs, whose net worth upon his death was $8.3 billion, got rich because he created a $360 billion company, not because he cut ahead of others. It bespeaks a profound conceptual misunderstanding to talk, as the CBO study does, about the growing concentration of income in the hands of the rich, as if the "rich" existed apart from the wealth—the value—they create.

Another thing liberals are worked up about is that the study attributes rising inequality to fewer "federal transfers" to the poor. But that's not because poor people are getting less money from Uncle Sam in absolute dollars. In fact, they get more every year. It is just that they are getting a smaller portion of total transfers. This is not something that "income inequality deniers" have made up. It is what the study itself says.

It found that in 1979, households in the bottom quintile received more than 50 percent of all transfer payments. In 2007, similar households received about 35 percent of transfers. "The shift reflects the growth in spending for programs focused on the elderly population (such as Social Security and Medicare), in which benefits are not limited to low-income households," the study explains. "As a result, government transfers reduced the dispersion of household income by less in 2007 than in 1979."

In other words, poor people are getting relatively fewer handouts thanks to the Great Society programs that liberals themselves put in place for the elderly. This demonstrates the core problem with unfettered redistributionism: Eventually, you run out of other people's money. And when you do, you have to make hard choices about whose needs to prioritize—not demonize opponents.

Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia is a columnist at The Daily, where this column originally appeared.

Update: Since many readers have asked, the CBO figures are adjusted for inflation. Check "Notes and Definitions" on Page 4.

NEXT: Naked After Dark

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  1. Good morning reason!

    1. Good morning Suki. Capture any last night?

      1. Trail of Tears.

        1. China: Regime Admits 10% of Farmland Polluted with Heavy Metals

          Considering the source, I’d start by doubling or tripling the estimate.

          1. Didn’t reports of massive Soviet pollution come out a few years after communism collapsed?

            1. Both are just slightly varied political flavors of agricultural city-STATISM. Both destroy the Land.

              1. 1 in 300 Cambodians are amputees from landmines.

                1 in 300 Americans attempt suicide each year.

                The American agricultural city-State (civilization) is like a landmine field of depression and psychosis.

          2. Thanks, Crapitalism.

            Sick is becoming the new normal.

            Thesis #21: Civilization makes us sick.
            by Jason Godesky | 2 January 2006

          3. I suggest China returns to its pre 1980’s days, there was lots of equality and people lived the green lifestyle, who would not prefer to what they got now ?

            1. Hows about they drop the communism, free everybody and end state ownership of land?

              1. They are a one party state, but one could hardly call them a communist state. If you want to buy land, you can, they have no principled respect for private property, but then America and most other countries will trample on your property when they see fit just as much. If you ask the average Chinese person if they are communist, they will laugh at you.

                1. No person in China can own land. They operate on the land tenure system even after the 2007 ‘reforms’. Might want to learn what you are talking about first.

                  1. Yeah, because when they sell those houses, they are selling them to the state, the person paying for them does not get to use it and sell them as he wishes.

                    1. Light must bend a lot when it passes your head.

                    2. Back in the real world, people in China really do own land. Companies really do invest in the place, the majority of the people there really are capitalists.

                    3. In Taiwan, yes they own land. Red China, no they cannot own land. This is the real world.

                    4. What the law says and how the people live and honour their deals are not the same. You can buy land in Red China and be as certain that they will not seize it as in America. There are way more Tony’s in America than in China who have zero respect for what is yours. As the for the government, the articles here at Reason do show that the US government has no more inhibitions on trampling on your property than the CCP does.

                    5. Eminent domain is a tragic holdover from imperial times, yes. However, you are still wrong about the only entity that holds deeds to property in red China. If you can’t bother looking it up after all this, then go lie to someoene else about it.

                    6. Who holds the deed is meaningless, you can own the deed in America, but should you discriminate or be a threat to national security or be in the way of a train development then your rights to the land get trampled on, owning a deed or not.

                      In China you can own something, they will can take it for the “public good”, but such excuses exist everywhere.

                2. Except you can’t own property in China. And I am talking about American style ownership not true ownership. In China you get land use rights for a certain period of time when you ‘purchase’ property.

            2. If everybody comments to this comment there will be no thread nesting.

              1. Nesting jars is OK as long as they are not in the sun.

            3. They had to build the Wall of China to keep the labor force from running away.

              Civilization is always a prison.

              Now the only way to run away from the prison hell is to commit suicide.

              So The Great Net of China is built to catch the labor force building your iPad who are jumping from windows.

              Back to work, you’re not being paid to believe in the power of your dreams.

              1. Have you ever been to the Congo ? The place is vast, you can travel for days and not find a settlement. If you want to avoid civilzation, I will pay for your ticket, you keen ?

                1. Have you ever been to the Somalia? The place is vast, you can travel for days and not find taxes or government. If you want to avoid socialism, I will pay for your ticket, you keen?

                  1. There, now we’ve exchanged “Send the Nigger Back to Africa” morning pleasantries.

                  2. Interesting, so the entire world is socialist except for Somalia now, I will send you off to North Korea then. Somalia is bad but it is better now than under their government they ever were, so what point are you trying to make ? That Somalia was great under their government ?

                    1. Stateless in Somalia, and Loving It
                      Mises Daily: Tuesday, February 21, 2006 by Yumi Kim

                      The Anarchy Advantage in Somalia
                      Brian Doherty | December 27, 2006
                      Reason Online

                    2. Life under their government was great, then they decided to become libertarians and became instantly poor, that is how you see it ?

                      Here is how it really happened, Somalia has always been poor, the government raped and pillaged so much (literal rape and pillage) that the government collapsed. They are still poor but less than before, you would have a point if they became poor because of lack of government, since the opposite is true, you simply spout a big straw man.

                    3. Don’t feed the trolls.

                  3. Somalia has two governments actually. The Transitional Federal Government and the Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen. Three governments, actually if you count Somaliland.

                    Jus’ sayin’

                2. Why go all the way to the Congo when we have Maine right here?

    2. Morning links at 9:05?

      1. #OWS scaring the KOCH types, thus the fevered concern.

        Cnut the Great had great success commanding the tides too.

    1. Do they give him some number 2 glass jars and tight fitting lids?

  2. You ran this piece earlier and it was wrong then. Why is Shikha making a career out of phony articles denouncing that CBO report? Because it’s true?

    1. It is a time travel trap!

      1. If you trap some CH4, you can use it anytime.

    2. What is wrong with the article? Are you one of those types who thinks no poor person ever becomes rich and no rich person ever becomes poor?

      1. Think of the wealth stored in those number 2 jars.

    3. Are you always this stupid?

  3. The other problem with this analysis is this:

    If you constructed a “Rawlsian” society that provided ample support for the least-well-off households, you would see a proliferation of such households.

    Because people who would previously have clustered in composite households out of necessity would say, “Fuck it, I can go out on my own.”

    A society that leaves, say, a single-person elderly head of household on his own to starve, will have very few households headed by a single elderly person.

    A society that leaves, say, a single mother of three alone to starve, or takes away her children and gives them to the Shakers, will have relatively few households where a single mother supports three children.

    But that society will show less income inequality precisely because it ignores those households out of existence.

    A society that provides income transfers or other supports for such households will appear to have more income inequality – and growing inequality – precisely because it will make it just tolerable enough for those households to be formed.

    So it may be that this increase in income inequality actually represents an increase in happiness. (Not that I am a utilitarian about this, but still.)

    If Elderly Person X has retirement income and transfers totaling $13k a year, and their kids make $38k a year, if they all lived as a group they’d have a solid middle class family income. But if Elderly Person X says, “Hey, I would hate living with my kids and they would hate having me. And I can scrape by on my own. So I think I’ll live alone,” this takes one middle class household and turns it into one lower middle class household and one poor household. But it’s two happier households – and the incontrovertible evidence of that is that these households are being formed by choice.

    1. a single-person elderly head of household on his own to starve


    2. “The free market means that those without money to buy what they need do not have the right to live.”
      – John McMurtry

      1. Rothbard:

        A common complaint is that the free market would not insure the elimination of poverty, that it would “leave people free to starve,” and that it is far better to be “kindhearted” and give “charity” free rein by taxing the rest of the populace in order to subsidize the poor and the substandard.

        In the first place, the “freedom-to-starve” argument confuses the “war against nature,” which we all conduct, with the problem of freedom from interference by other persons. We are always “free to starve” unless we pursue our conquest of nature, for that is our natural condition. But “freedom” refers to absence of molestation by other persons; it is purely an interpersonal problem.

      2. Fine, even one of the world’s major religions which shows compassion for the poor, also condemns the lazy:

        For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

        -II Thessalonians 3:10

  4. Interesting who has been missing for days.

    1. You know who else has been missing for days.

  5. I think the real issue is income mobility, which is addressed in this article, but does need elaboration. True, we may all be getting richer, in a manner of speaking. But, I think people confuse the entire “rich getting richer, poor getting poorer” meme with the increasing likelihood that you will be born into a particular “class” bracket, and stay there for the rest of your life.

    1. Interestingly enough, the “rich getting richer, poor getting poorer” meme crowd admires the rigid class societies the most. They love the old Soviet system, Cuba, Mainland China, etc.

      1. The post-liberalization successes of India and China

        Try reading the article sometime.

        1. Are you talking about the hipsters who love crony capitalism China or the aging hippies who love old-school communist China? Read the comments sometime.

        2. “The post-liberalization successes of India and China have convinced even ardent liberals that markets…”

          This sentence is so weird. Can we please take back the word “liberal”. They don’t seem to be using it any more, they call themselves progressives. We’re the liberals and we like liberalization!

      2. Correct. Fundamentally, the only thing government can do is impede the price mechanism. Obviously the natural price of a thing doesn’t need government so anything the government does must necessarily lower or raise the exchange price of something.

        That is a bit tautological but it’s worth noting because that essentially means government always and everywhere both destroys wealth and causes what remains to be concentrated into fewer hands.

        That’s the economics persepctive.

        Politically of course government action overtly tries to concentrate wealth because concentrated wealth is exactly what people in government want to partake of. If you can’t or don’t want to create wealth you must take it, and you need government to do so.

        The result is wealth stratification, precisely as a result of, and in proportion to, government activity.

        It’s readily apparent that as government has increased so too has wealth diversity. Of course the answer of the OWS crowd to a problem caused by government, is more government;)

  6. The liberals do it because THEY CARE!

    1. “The liberals do it because THEY CARE”

      No they do it because they feel guilty for having anything.

      1. No, they are jealous of anybody who has anything that they want, but do not have.

        1. If your neighbor has something you wish you had, it is better to destroy what your neighbor has than to strive to get one for yourself.
          That would be, like, hard and stuff.
          It’s so much easier to destroy.

            1. Right. This is the problem. We would leave collectivists alone, but they will never leave us alone.

              Consider two adjacent geographical areas. One is culturally collectivist (socialist, communist, or state-archist) and one culturally individualist (libertarian, minarchist or ancap) Initially they agree to never cross the borders.

              Of course the free area would have more wealth and increasingly so over time. Despite the fact that both outcomes are caused solely by their own cultures the collectivists would necessarily eventually view individualists wealth as not as the inevitable result of their own system but somehow stolen from them.

              Many collectivists recognize this, they understand, and even admit, that their utopia cannot work if there exists any freedom. Of course that simply means it cannot work because there is always the human urge to liberty.

              At core it’s simply a specious justification for envy.

              To the grasshopper, the ant is bad because the ant exists. The grasshopper thinks the ant’s savings is wrong, but the truth is, without the ant’s savings the grasshopper would be doomed.

              The grasshopper is always better off if there is an ant around to maybe get a job from than he would be if there no ant at all.

              But the degenerate state of collectivism kills all the ants or turns them into grasshoppers by taking anything they try to save.

    2. They do it because they think being generous with other peoples money makes you virtuous.

      1. Of course it does.
        Where’s the fun in being generous with your own money? Unless you are fabulously rich you will not be effective.
        So it is better to make policy decisions that affect how money that was confiscated under threat of force from millions of people, because that way you can have a real effect.
        There is nothing more virtuous than robbing Peter to pay Paul.
        At least that’s what Paul told me.

  7. The rich (that is the ones who do rich people stuff like living on less than they make and investing the difference) get richer and the poor (that is the ones who do poor people stuff like going into debt to support a lifestyle they can’t afford) get poorer. The good news is that the poor who do rich people stuff (like working two jobs, starting businesses and live below their incomes) get richer. THAT is the “American Dream”, not winning the lottery or buying a house you can’t afford.

    1. Class Mobility: Is the American Dream a Myth?
      by Ed Gordon…..Id=4662456

      1. ROFL! NPR as evidence? ROFLMAO!

        1. ROFL! Reason as evidence? ROFLMAO!

      2. Well, I cerainly should yield to the wisdom of NPR and completely ignore the dozens of people I have personally seen lift themselves up without government assistance from poverty to middle class. THIS IS NOT ROCKET SURGERY!!! Spend less than you make, invest the difference in anything that has a positive return (your skill set, your home, mutual funds, a side business) and your asset base will increase. Spend more than you make, and you will become poorer. Get the government to confiscate other people’s property and, as soon as that’s gone, you’ll be poorer still. Of course the rich get richer, over time. It’s called compound interest and it’s available to everyone in any country that allows private ownership of property. GEEEEZE!!!

      3. Call Bullshit on Ed Gordon:

        Median incomes, per the US Census (2009 dollars):

        Under $14K 1990–14%
        $15K-$24K 1990–11.8%
        $25K-$34K 1990–11.2%
        $35K-$49K 1990–15.7%
        $50K-$74K 1990–20%
        $75K-$99K 1990–12.2%
        $100K+ 1990–15%

        Why do 3 of the top 4 sextiles drop so much? Because the number of households making over $100K went up 5%. Keep in mind that the “1%’s” income level has a floor of about $340K a year, meaning there are a lot more people making between $100K and $340K than there were 20 years ago, even after accounting for inflation.

        Ed Gordon doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

      1. To Bean Counter, obviously…

  8. Isn’t an unequal distribution of wealth preferable to an equal distribution of poverty? Is there any amount of inequality that liberal worrywarts would accept?

    The real problem is envy. As long as at least one rich person exists (who is not a member of the political class, and thus deserving of wealth) then there will be envy.
    Those who do not have what the rich person has will envy the rich person.
    They will feel inadequate, like someone with a small penis at a nudist camp.
    And we can’t have people feeling bad about themselves. I mean, that’s just mean and hurtful to allow people to feel bad about themselves.
    So the solution is to reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator. If that means that everyone lives in poverty, well so be it.
    Because shared misery is better than envy.

    1. Once you have more than a person reasonably needs to survive and live comfortably, Capitalist ENVY is the driver to accumulate MOOOOAAARRRRRR.

      1. Define “live comfortably”.

        I bet your comfort is one mans excess and the another mans poverty. If I say people should live like the Spartans, you would reject it, yet you have the arrogance to presume that your comfort is what everyone else should settle for.

        1. If you don’t think the concept of a “comfortable living” is definable or valid, ask Nick Gillespie.

          Gillespie said, one of the dangers of prosperity and comfortable living

          And thanks for playing. Checkmate.

          1. No moron you said it, in the post above:
            “Once you have more than a person reasonably needs to survive and live comfortably”.

            1. even by libertarians. duh

            2. Give it up, NotSure. He’s not worth it.

            3. “NotSure|11.8.11 @ 9:47AM|#

              No moron you said it, in the post above:
              “Once you have more than a person reasonably needs to survive and live comfortably”.”

              So in your perfect world everyone should strive for just above subsistence level income, and once we reach that – stop. Of course, with no societal excess what exactly would we feed artists and intellectuals on. I think much of what they produce is crap, but I still would rather that “starving artist/intellectual were just a figure of speech.

      2. But then all you have to do is choose not to participate.

        Problem solved.

        Capitalism gives you that option.

        The striking thing about the Unabomber to me is that he was full of rage against a system that allowed him to opt out and live exactly as he wanted without a whole lot of effort.

        Since you claim to be conscious of the fact that all needs above subsistence are the product of false consciousness, you should be golden. Drop out and work 10 hours a week and live a subsistence lifestyle without all those false capitalist desires. WIN.

        And wouldn’t this also mean that you are conceding that as soon as you aren’t starving, complaining about income inequality would just be part of MOARRRRRRRRR?

        1. Capitalism gives you that option.

          Not hardly, pilgrim.

          Officer, am I free to gambol about plain and forest in a Non-State Society lifeway?

          Capitalism: NO!
          Communism: NO!

          Gambol Lockdown. Not much choice there, Fluff-fer-brains.

          1. Gambol lockdown? Jesus H. Christ, you’re a self perpetuating parody.

          2. If you think you aren’t free to gambol than you simply haven’t tried. As I write this now I am in a nation park consumption hup derps and communing with the herp derps.

          3. Did WI go off his meds?

            1. He’s always off his meds.

    2. well, if you reason that happiness is most important, and that happiness is a function of comparison, then equality of poverty is more important then unequal distribution of wealth.
      Perhaps you have some logical, fact based way to say that psychological perceptions of happiness are not important

  9. …and aren’t psychopaths.

    he following characteristics of a psychopath, defined by Hervery M. Cleckley in 1941 in the book Mask of Sanity include:

    Lack of remorse or shame.

    Antisocial behavior without apparent compunction.

    Pathological egocentricity and incapacity to love.

    General poverty in major affective reactions.

    Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations.

    1. The Soviet Union also declared those who did not agree with the socialist system as mentally ill. Strangely enough it was their country where the people were starving, the countries with the mental disease were not not, so I pick mental disease. You can enjoy your perfectly sane society, as you queue for bread in loving solidarity.

      1. The Soviet Union also declared those who did not agree with the socialist system as mentally ill.
        Modern socialists define conservatism as a mental illness today.

        1. It is much easier to argue that there is something wrong with the person than to argue against their ideas.
          I mean, if the person’s ideas make them mentally ill, then the ideas deserve no merit, no consideration, and no debate.

          Oh, and did I mention that liberalism is a mental disorder?

          1. See above on the China real estate subthread. Fact: Red China Communist government owns all deeds to property in Red China (they might even still be claiming Taiwan too, not positive).

            1. What does it matter who owns the deeds, you still have the right to buy and sell your property and give ownership to others. So you own a deed in America, so what ? the government gives zero shit about your deed, they can take your land in the name of national security just as easily as in China. That does not now mean that you should no one should no longer buy land, the Chinese are no fools, they know of the disaster of their communist experiment, the place is as capitalist as anywhere else.

              I have less fear of losing my property in China than places like Greece, which probably allow you to own your deed, which in then end means nothing practically.

              1. You say that because you have no experience with the chinese legal system. I was in China not too long ago where an area the size of area of any major metropolitan city was completely raised. There was a heavy police presence as litterally hundreds if not thousands of individuals were forced from their homes for no compensation whatsoever and tensions were high in that part of the city. The fact is, while the goverment in the US can take your property, you have due recourse with the legal system to either prevent, or at least recieve somehting approaching fair market value. That does not exist in China. You do not own land in China. You get a land use right that last for something like 70 years. However, in America, even with eminent domaine, the likelihood of your property being seized is nill and the likelihood that your family could own the property 200 years later if they don’t sell is high. There is a chasm between the two systems.

            2. Mainland China will forever claim Taiwan. Interestingly enough about real estate in China. I read an opinion article that the bubble might be starting to collapse in China. Many developers have significantly slashed pricse, some selling for at cost, and apparrently there was a small riot, 300 people who had bought condos earlier in the development, who smashed the windows of a developer who significantly cut prices on one of their developments.

          2. LOL

      2. 1 in 300 Cambodians are amputees from landmines.

        1 in 300 Americans attempt suicide each year.

        Landmines, and a landmine field of depression and psychosis, do the same thing to people – great harm. Death. Cambodia and America are both equally tragic.

      3. Psychopaths are described as incapable of empathy, guilt, or loyalty to anyone but themselves; [i.e. “INDIVIDUALIST] still, spotting a psychopath isn’t easy. Babiak, an industrial and organizational psychologist, and Hare (Without Conscience), creator of the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathology, present a study of the psychopath in the corporate landscape. ~Publishers Weekly

        Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work…..0060837721

        1. I am sure you consider yourself the paragon of sanity, I am not so sure those you deal with would though…

          Wanting the world to go back to the stone ages, normally comes from lunatics.

          1. Guys, we are not responding to rather-troll. Please stop.

          2. I’d like to read a book on your theory — if it’s valid — NotSure.

            1. I don’t have to read a book, just like nobody has to tell me that a man running down a street with a cleaver wearing a chicken suit is mad. You are mad, harmless, but still mad, do your friends and family know about your madness, or do you only secretly put your madness on display here ?

              1. The Original Affluent Society
                Marshall Sahlins

                Who is Marshall Sahlins?

                a) A prominent American anthropologist, is today the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology Emeritus.

                b) A mad man running down a street with a cleaver wearing a chicken suit.

                NotSure = not a firm grip on reality.


                1. A prominent anthropologist who jet sets around the world, staying in comfortable hotels sipping champagne at conferences, who sells the idea of the noble savage. I wonder what kind of person would fall for his shit, lunatics like you.

                  1. The city-Statist must rest his submission to the city-State on Hobbesian mythology.

                    NotSure = domesticated poodle.

                    1. What reality is that ? Have you hunted an animal with a stone tipped spear before ? Until you have, keep living in your fantasy world, where your parents keep you fat while you pretend to be some great hunter of the wild.

                      You keep spouting how great your society would be, yet you have never once hunted, been in the true wild or had to truly survive. You ultimately don’t want to live the life that you are trying to convince others they should live, now why is that ?

                    2. …living in the Original Affluent Society isn’t “fantasy.”

                      Unless you’re a young-earth creationist. Or city-Statist submissive poodle. Kinda the same mentality. Domesticated and religious. Obey!

                    3. …living in the Original Affluent Society isn’t “fantasy.”

                      Neither is 2 million years of humans with an average lifespan of 30 years.

                      Unless you’re a primitard. Or dirt-eating shaman. Kinda the same mentality. Wondering if you’ll find enough berries to survive after failing to spear that woolly rhino. Gambol!

                    4. Humans haven’t existed for 2 million years. More like 200,000. Paleolithic man had a life span close to what we had in the early 20th centry. Life spans had fallen in the neolithic and it took thousands of years to claw back up to paleolithic levels.

        2. My heart is full with a desire to see the guilty suffer and a desire to see the good do well.

          Is every member of a jury that votes to imprison a murderer a psychopath?

          Can’t the murderer say, “Wah! You have no empathy! You are blind to my pain! Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah!”

          Um, no dude. If you were innocent I would be burning to get you set free as soon as fucking possible, precisely because I would feel huge empathy for someone imprisoned for doing nothing wrong. But if you actually committed the crime you are accused of, fuck you.

          Empathy and sympathy are not the same. Empathy only means being aware of the mental and emotional states of others. Sometimes it’s precisely your empathy – your ability to step into the emotional state of the other – that makes you hate their fucking guts.

          The “psychopath test”, like the narcissism test, is incredibly politically loaded and culturally biased to the norms of the postwar society that existed when the tests were devised, and as such it’s not surprising that both “tests” are routinely abused by socialist fucks now.

          1. The “psychopath test”, like the narcissism test, is incredibly politically loaded…

            Oh now, that’s really funny shit, Fluff-fer-brains.

            Truth kinda stings, doesn’t it?

            1. Here is the Narcissism Personality Inventory:

              1 A. I have a natural talent for influencing people.
              B. I am not good at influencing people.

              2. A. Modesty doesn’t become me.
              B. I am essentially a modest person.

              3. A. I would do almost anything on a dare.
              B. I tend to be a fairly cautious person.

              4. A. When people compliment me I sometimes get embarrassed.
              B. I know that I am good because everybody keeps telling me so.

              5. A. The thought of ruling the world frightens the hell out of me.
              B. If I ruled the world it would be a better place.

              6. A. I can usually talk my way out of anything.
              B. I try to accept the consequences of my behavior.

              7. A. I prefer to blend in with the crowd.
              B. I like to be the center of attention.

              8. A. I will be a success.
              B. I am not too concerned about success.

              9. A. I am no better or worse than most people.
              B. I think I am a special person.

              10. A. I am not sure if I would make a good leader.
              B. I see myself as a good leader.

              11. A. I am assertive.
              B. I wish I were more assertive.

              12. A. I like to have authority over other people.
              B. I don’t mind following orders.

              13. A. I find it easy to manipulate people.
              B. I don’t like it when I find myself manipulating people.

              14. A. I insist upon getting the respect that is due me.
              B. I usually get the respect that I deserve.

              15. A. I don’t particularly like to show off my body.
              B. I like to show off my body.

              16. A. I can read people like a book.
              B. People are sometimes hard to understand.

              17. A. If I feel competent I am willing to take responsibility for making decisions.
              B. I like to take responsibility for making decisions.

              18. A. I just want to be reasonably happy.
              B. I want to amount to something in the eyes of the world.

              19. A. My body is nothing special.
              B. I like to look at my body.

              20. A. I try not to be a show off.
              B. I will usually show off if I get the chance.

              21. A. I always know what I am doing.
              B. Sometimes I am not sure of what I am doing.

              22. A. I sometimes depend on people to get things done.
              B. I rarely depend on anyone else to get things done.

              23. A. Sometimes I tell good stories.
              B. Everybody likes to hear my stories.

              24. A. I expect a great deal from other people.
              B. I like to do things for other people.

              25. A. I will never be satisfied until I get all that I deserve.
              B. I take my satisfactions as they come.

              26. A. Compliments embarrass me.
              B. I like to be complimented.

              27. A. I have a strong will to power.
              B. Power for its own sake doesn’t interest me.

              28. A. I don’t care about new fads and fashions.
              B. I like to start new fads and fashions.

              29. A. I like to look at myself in the mirror.
              B. I am not particularly interested in looking at myself in the mirror.

              30. A. I really like to be the center of attention.
              B. It makes me uncomfortable to be the center of attention.

              31. A. I can live my life in any way I want to.
              B. People can’t always live their lives in terms of what they want.

              32. A. Being an authority doesn’t mean that much to me.
              B. People always seem to recognize my authority.

              33. A. I would prefer to be a leader.
              B. It makes little difference to me whether I am a leader or not.

              34. A. I am going to be a great person.
              B. I hope I am going to be successful.

              35. A. People sometimes believe what I tell them.
              B. I can make anybody believe anything I want them to.

              36. A. I am a born leader.
              B. Leadership is a quality that takes a long time to develop.

              37. A. I wish somebody would someday write my biography.
              B. I don’t like people to pry into my life for any reason.

              38. A. I get upset when people don’t notice how I look when I go out in public.
              B. I don’t mind blending into the crowd when I go out in public.

              39. A. I am more capable than other people.
              B. There is a lot that I can learn from other people.

              40. A. I am much like everybody else.
              B. I am an extraordinary person.

              If you can’t read that test and see the MASSIVE NUMBER of questions where the answer distribution would be culturally loaded, you’re worse than the quacks using this test.

              Consider the ways in which answers given in the 40’s BY WOMEN ALONE would bias the test outcome.

              Basically this is a test devised to see if people decades ago were meeting social expectations of personal subservience in manners. Expectations that largely no longer exist or have shifted so profoundly that the test is no longer relevant.

              1. Sanity test:
                1.A. I sometimes doubt my own sanity.
                B. I’m perfectly sane; the voices in my head tell me so.

          2. Fluffy, please do not feed the troll.

        3. off the bridge!

    2. But I thought she was NOT “unresponsive”?

      Son, I am confuse…

  10. Of course, some gain more than others. But so what?

    Diana Moon Glompers would like a word with you.

    1. The Pigs like this thought, and are interested in subscribing to Shikha’s newsletter.

    2. I am Diana Moon Glompers.

  11. WTF? Is anyone else having trouble with the site loading? It’s fucking slow.

    1. No. Nobody but you. Try making nice with the squirrels.

  12. Since I will be in a meeting when the links come up, here’s my hottie for the day:…..twins.html

    Rebecca Romijn (Mystique in the X-Men films) is still hot.

    1. Bless you. She is. Damn!

    2. Damn you! I want to be angry and there you go posting picture of beautiful women.

  13. I see my plot to ruin Reason is working spledidly with my anti-civilization trolls doing what I paid them for…..litter the commentary with drivel.

    1. LOL Funny stuff!

      Because Libertarians love being governed by their beloved Savior, the agricultural city-STATE (civilization.)

      1. …than thou.

  14. My one question has to do with inflation – are these figures straight numbers, or are they adjusted for inflation? Because if they’re not adjusted figures, then the standard of living for the poor didn’t increase if it didn’t outpace inflation during the same period.

  15. “Steve Jobs, whose net worth upon his death was $8.3 billion, got rich because he created a $360 billion company, not because he cut ahead of others. It bespeaks a profound conceptual misunderstanding to talk, as the CBO study does, about the growing concentration of income in the hands of the rich, as if the “rich” existed apart from the wealth?the value?they create.”

    The overwhelming majority of the top 1% work in the financial industry, and in investment banking in particular. Unlike Steve Jobs, they do not create anything. They facilitate trading between buyers and sellers. They do, in fact, exist apart from the wealth they create. Comparing them to Steve Jobs is insulting to Jobs and others like him who actually produce something. So unless someone can explain to me why they deserve to make so much money, it seems to me that the game is rigged. Furthermore, the bulk of Jobs’s wealth was in stock. His wealth based only on products sold by Apple would be a fraction of what it was.

  16. Redistributionists are jealous and lazy. All those OWS people have plenty of time on their hands which they could use as volunteers, but instead they want to complain, destroy property, destroy local business, and in the case of Oakland close down the Port and thus the city’s economy. I haven’t heard (on tv) or read on intelligent thing from any of them that indicates the slightest bit of knowledge about how the US economy works. In fact I heard a couple of them say that they want to abolish money. How absurd. Money was deemed to be superior to barter thousands of years ago. What do they imagine they could barter in order to obtain their lap tops and Ipads? Obviously they haven’t thought that far.

    1. What do they imagine they could barter in order to obtain their lap tops and Ipads?

      For many of them most any orfice would do.

  17. The article, and most of the comments I have read, are straw men.
    Most Leftists like myself are not saying, confiscate the money of the wealthy and make everyone equal (of course, in a group as large as americna liberals, you can find a few people who support any posistion).
    Rather, the wealthy have gained to much *power*, and an in ordinate share of wealth.
    the power part is obvious; supposedly we are a democracy, yet congress repeatedly passes bills that favor the 1%.
    The inordinate part is less obvious; I assume that people here would say that if B Gates and W Buffer earned 95% of the total income in the us, and most of us starved or worked on their estates, that that is not acceptable.
    So, you all agree that society has to have some equalization function, ie conficatory taxes; all that is left is the tax level

  18. Brad, the overwhelming majority of the 1% absolutely do not work in finance and banking. The highest estimates are that those comprise under 30%. Go read or something.

    you act as if wealth is the only and ultimate measure of power. Politicians love you for it. You decry the power of the 1%. You say they have too much power. Who has the power to give them the powers you are so scared about? I will give you a hint, it is not just Republicans. You have a problem with capitalism as the US currently practices it. So do all here. Where you go wrong is pretending that funneling more power to the political 1% is somehow better than power in the wealthy 1%. We think the power is much scarier, deadlier, and harder to control when it is in the hands of the political 1%.

  19. Few, besides vulgar Marxists, believe in the “immiseration of the masses” theory of capitalism anymore?the idea that the wealth of the top few is extracted by exploiting the labor of the bottom many. Burying this notion is one of the enduring intellectual victories of market theorists.

    Shikha, are you sure about that? Almost everyone I talk to about this issue, or those wringing their hands over the stagnation of the middle class, believe exactly this–the economy is a fixed-size pie, and the only way for one to do better financially is for someone else to do worse.

    They’re not Marxists, either–it’s what they are taught in school and hear obliquely all the time.

  20. This seems like it’s making a big deal out of what is essentially an accounting issue.

    Social security, which is one the bigger expenditures here, is intended to be a transfer of wealth from citizens to their older selves, which if fulfilled by giving money to today’s elderly and taking it from tomorrow’s youth. If the government took all of everyone’s money and then gave it back to them directly, minus their income taxes, then the inequality of “government transfer payments” would be enormous, even though nothing had actually changed in society.

    Of course, with Medicare and faster-than-inflation growth of SS income, one can easily argue that what’s happening is the elderly are basically robbing the young. But good luck finding a politician anywhere who’s willing to touch that one, and significant handouts to the elderly have been passed by Republican governments. But pointing out that government payments have changed, without looking at the source or purpose of that income, is just pointless.

    1. not if your purpose is to flog your pet theories on “inequality” to enlarge redistributionist schemes

  21. Psychohistorian, never mind what SS is “intended” to be (and I dispute your notion because its not coherent, read the sentence you wrote again), focus on what is *is*, which is a Ponzi scheme.

    You know it is, you said it yourself: “fulfilled by giving money to today’s elderly and taking it from tomorrow’s youth.”

    Of course, in reality, its taking money from today’s youth and giving it to yesterday’s youth (or todays elderly, whatever one you prefer).

  22. thank you a looooooooots

  23. thank you a lotsssssssssssssss

  24. thank you a lotsssssssssssssss

  25. thank you a lotsssssssssssssss

  26. CBO Income Inequality study was rigged from the start. They picked 1979 as the starting year (after years of low stock market returns, and capital gains) and ended their study with 2007 (after years of rising stock market returns, and capital gains). If you normalize capital gains over that time period, the large increase for upper income earners is largely eliminated. For details see:

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