[FoRK] 2009 Distribution of Wealth in the US

James Tauber jtauber at jtauber.com
Mon Nov 8 18:51:37 PST 2010


On Nov 9, 2010, at 1:52 AM, Aaron Burt wrote:

> On Mon, Nov 08, 2010 at 09:31:35PM +0000, James Tauber wrote:
>> On Nov 8, 2010, at 8:57 PM, Aaron Burt wrote:
>>> On Mon, Nov 08, 2010 at 07:30:39PM +0000, James Tauber wrote:
>>> 
>>>> The redistributionalists can't have it both ways. Either the rich *do*
>>>> pay a lot of tax OR wealth and income aren't strongly correlated.
>>> 
>>> Income != taxable income.  Intentional obtuseness is *so* last decade.
>> 
>> I thought the issue was Lorin using W-2 income distribution as equivalent
>> to wealth distribution (or, at the very least, a good indicator of it).
> 
> W-2 income distribution is one of the few indicators we have of wealth
> distribution.  It's not a great one, but it's hard to get statistical info
> on personal income that's hidden from taxation, and very hard to get
> statistics on personal wealth.
> 
> You got anything better?

You seem to be missing my point. I'm simply saying that *if* income distribution is an indicator of wealth distribution then you can't really turn around and say the wealthy don't pay taxes on the grounds that their wealth doesn't show up as income.

>> Either W-2 income distribution is not a good indicator of wealth
>> distribution (in which case the subject of this thread is disingenuous)
>> or it is. 
> 
> Are you arguing that there is no correlation between income and wealth?

No, but labeling a report on W-2 income distribution as "distribution of wealth" rather than "distribution of income" is, I think, misleading.

> Also, are you arguing that people do not avoid taxes?

No, but the people in the top 10% income-wise pay more than 10% of the income tax; people in the top 1% income-wise pay more than 1% of the income tax; people in the top 0.1% income-wise pay more than 0.1% of the income tax and so on. And yet people will claim "the richest X% don't pay taxes" for pretty high values of X. And when you show them the tax statistics, those people will generally claim you're confusing wealth and income.

James


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