Re: Divided Decade: Economic Disparity at the Century's Turn

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From: Dave Long (
Date: Wed Jan 05 2000 - 23:17:00 PST

> United for a Fair Economy has an interesting report out...

It was interesting seeing the growth in "zero or negative net
worth", from 10% to 20% of the population. You'd think we ought to
start setting property requirements for voting. Next thing, it'll
be time for bread and circuses.

In _The Virginian_, a character asks what a foreman is, and is told
that it must be a sort of high-class house servant. From the owners'
point of view, a CEO isn't much more than a sort of high-class
foreman. So why the big bucks? Is it because ownership in public
entities is so scattered that CEOs can wholeheartedly pursue their
own interests?

I couldn't seem to reach the FoRK archives tonight, so I can't check
what results I came up with in our estate tax thread. Anyway, this
report claims that only about 2% of households wind up subject to
estate taxes, and that the actual median household net worth is $50K.
It seems that having estate taxes cut in at $2 million (for a married
couple) wouldn't be a widespread burden.

I can't say I agree with many of the conclusions; most of the
figures quoted seem to arise because:
        - wealth and income have long-tailed distributions
        - inflation and interest drive everything to larger
          figures and greater disparities (how would things
          look on a log scale?)
        - interest rate changes drastically shift "wealth"
          between asset holders and wage earners. A look at
          cash flow/equivalent income might show a steadier

However, I do have to agree that it is silly to tax capital gains
differently from wages. (Perhaps it is an attempt to discourage
rent-seeking?) In the middle ages, financiers proved smart enough
to outwit the church's prohibition on usury by disguising interest
income as exchange profit; today financiers are probably smart
enough to outwit the tax system by disguising income as gains.


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