Income Inequality in the US

Thankfully, our elected representatives have saved the day. They have said NO to asking that the wealthy pay their fair share for government services. They have said NO to government enslavement of the American people and YES to letting the free market continue enslaving the American people. The private sector does a better job of controlling people’s lives anyway. Good work.

Income inequality in the US is at an all time high. The average American worker, assuming he has a job, makes less than he did a decade ago, despite Mr. Bush’s sacred tax cuts for the wealthy. The wealthy, on the other hand, have made some of the biggest gains in history indicating that tax cuts for wealthy people do, in fact, work. We have lost more jobs under Bush’s tax cuts than at any single time since the Great Depression. And somehow, this is all OK and we’re supposed to believe that keeping disastrous economic policies in place that even a tax hound like Reagan would balk at, is somehow going to make the world a better place.

The Famous Gini Coefficient

The Gini Coefficient is a measure of income inequality. The larger the coeffiecient (closer to 1), the greater the inequality. Below is a map of the Gini coefficient for all counties in the Continental United States (thanks to data compiled by this man). Remember, high==bad, low==good. In this picture, red mean high levels of inequality and blue means low levels of inequality. The Gini coefficient is highest in largely African-American counties in the Southern United States and throughout Appalachia. It is appalling that there are counties in the United States that have a level of income inequality that’s seen over the poorest countries of Africa and Central America. In fact, the United States as a whole is only a step above the Ivory Coast, one of the poorest countries on the planet.

Perhaps, not coincidentally, the South, while not only a bastion of economic segregation, is also an area of low taxes on the wealthy (some areas have no property tax) and high sales tax. I don’t know whether there is a causal link between low taxes on wealthy people and inequality, but it’s worth exploring. I bet it’s true.  If it’s true that all politics are local, then this preferential treatment given to the wealthy that exists throughout the South should be a broad indicator of the success or failure of tax policy countrywide. 

At the very least, low taxes on wealthy persons means underfunded schools, exacerbating a cycle of low education, low skills and poverty which continues for generations. Low taxes on the wealthy mean low accountability on a class of people that, worldwide, routinely operate in their own interests, seeing the masses as nothing more than a means of fattening their stock divideds. Low taxes on the wealthy means poor health infrastructure. People who are not healthy cannot work to their full potential, creating a cycle of subsistence and dependence on government services, imprisonment and a state of poverty than’s handed down from generation to generation.

So thanks, Mr and Ms. Senators. Thanks for acting in our interests.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

4 responses to “Income Inequality in the US”

  1. teacherpatti says :

    I have a friend on FB who is a police officer and who is vehemently anti-Democrat, anti-tax. I know police officers make good money (ahem, thanks police union!) so I imagine he makes more than me but probably not a ton more. Also, my husband makes a lot more than his wife. So let’s call us even. My friend goes on and on about how unfair it is to “punish” the rich by taxing them. I have tried, patiently, to explain to him that he is not rich and isn’t going to be rich so why does he care so much? He doesn’t seem to get that the rich are passing way less than they were under his boy, Ronny R. And how having more money in the coffer is good for all of us, especially (ahem), those of us who are paid by tax money.
    The really frustrating thing is that this attitude is SO common. How did we get here? How did we go to the point where the default attitude is “I got mine, now you get yours”, let’s not “punish” the rich, unions are wrecking society by daring to ask for livable wages and benefits…?? What the fuck is wrong with people?

  2. Pete Larson says :

    Amen. I want to know why people need to play lap dog to the wealthy, particularly PUBLIC EMPLOYEES. When did this happen?

    It defies logic, and every time I try to get my head around it, I get more and more confused.

  3. Ferunando-Sama says :

    You see that Minnesota and Wisconsin seem to be the less unequal. Those are the german roots 😉

  4. Pete Larson says :

    As opposed to the Affeninsel roots.

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