two charts about America

First, from Matt Yglesias, “Why It’s Unlikely That a Big GOP Win Will Lead to Deficit Reduction in One Chart”:

It’s a chart from a Dartmouth survey (PDF) that, among other things, asked 1000 people what ideas for reducing the deficit they would support. As you can see, Republicans supported… basically nothing.

It’s a truism that you can do next to nothing about the deficit unless you either raise taxes or make drastic cuts to the three biggest parts of the budget — military spending, Social Security, and medical spending including Medicare. And Republicans are theoretically the party that’s serious about the debt — remember their stern lectures about raising the debt ceiling. But those who identify as Republicans (except for a small percentage who presumably are actually serious about reducing the size of government and are not just using that notion as a convenient bludgeon for Demo-bashing) don’t want to do any of the things that would actually reduce the deficit. They refuse to raise taxes, ever — but they also won’t tolerate cuts to the most expensive line items.

(Maybe they’re expecting to make up the difference by eliminating Moon Base Totenberg.)

Second, here’s what income distribution looks like in America:

Not pictured — a bell shape.

The Economic Policy Institute would like this graph to stand for the proposition that $250,000/year is not a middle-class income. Fair enough.

But this graph says so much more. It shows us that the vast majority of us are huddled in what, judging by actual purchasing power, could most charitably be described as “not-quite-poverty.” It shows that there are very few wealthy people, but that their wealth stretches out to almost unimaginable numbers. It shows that any randomly-bestowed quality that might have a normal distribution in the population, such as talent or luck or a propensity for hard work, is unlikely to be able to explain the wealth distribution in our society. (Which further suggests that the game is rigged — that the mechanisms of wealth distribution function as an intentional distortion of normal market dynamics.)

Or maybe not. Sometimes skewness in graphs just happens, right? Maybe we don’t need to ask why the land of Horatio Alger now has less class-mobility than snobby, aristocratic old Europe. Maybe it doesn’t matter that the richest 1% captured a vastly disproportionate segment of the country’s growth in the three decades leading up to the financial crisis — and then captured most of the recovery as well. Maybe it’s all just a natural, healthy system working toward its logical ends, promoting job creation and making the pie higher.


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One Response to two charts about America

  1. Eric says:

    But of course the Yglesias is completely and depressingly unsurprising, and the conclusion that Republicans don’t support any deficit-reduction measures is one of those things that manages to be absolutely true and completely inaccurate (I’m sure you know this, actually).

    Because: of course the Republicans want to take steps to reduce the deficit. By cutting all that “foreign aid”, of course, and getting rid of “entitlement programs”, and eliminating costly “Federal regulations”, and all that jazz. You and I know (again, of course) that the programs rank-and-file Republicans want to cut are, variously, infinitesimal; non-existent*; wouldn’t make a ding in the deficit if they actually did exist and were in any way conspicuous and were cut; etc. But that’s because you and I bother to actually attempt to inform ourselves occasionally, and consider critical thinking to be a virtue, and (let’s just go on and be blunt about it) basically aren’t idiots and ignoramuses.

    *I mean this literally: I know (and I’m sure you do, too) plenty of people who want nebulous and unidentified “entitlements” cut–not any you could specifically name, of course; they just “know” that there are lots of wasteful government programs that throw money at lazy people, sluts, criminals, nogoodniks, shiftless bums, etc. Nobody they know themselves, and don’t touch their Social Security (not an entitlement, of course), but “everybody knows” this is going on and if you ask for evidence, well, you’re the one who’s being pigheaded and blind.

    Echoes of Ronald Reagan’s imbecilic (and racist) comments about “young bucks” and “welfare queens”. Back then, it was welfare mothers having babies for paychecks and driving Cadillacs, these days they supposedly all have cell phones. I think if I rant about this anymore, I’m liable to invoke Godwin’s Law, not by comparing Reagan to the Big H., himself, but by pointing out how much GOP speechwriters and pundits then and now would warm the cockles of His Little Joe’s heart. Ah, dammit. I did it anyway. Shutting up, now.)

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