There Will Be Rich Always: Finding a New Way to Think About Income Inequality

On Monday, Aaron Edlin and I published a cri de coeur op-ed in the New York Times calling for a Brandeis tax, an automatic tax that would put the brakes on income inequality. In the next few days, Aaron and I will be publishing a series of posts explaining more about our rationale and providing more details on how a Brandeis tax might be implemented.

There Will Be Rich Always
By Ian Ayres & Aaron Edlin

In one of the more memorable lyrics from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar (based on Matthew 26:11), Jesus tells his disciples “There will be poor always.”

The same is true of the rich. There will always be a top 1 percent of income earners. But what it takes to be rich can change drastically over the course of even a single generation. In 1980, you would have had to earn at least $158,000 to be a one-percenter; but by 2006 the qualifying amount had more than doubled to $332,000. (You can produce an estimate of your own household income percentile – albeit using a different definition of income that produces a much higher 1 percent cutoff – at this site.) The rise is not due to inflation as both these numbers are expressed in inflation-adjusted, constant 2006 dollars.

The Mere Sight of an American Flag Can Shift Voters Republican

As if we needed more evidence that people often fail to practice rational, thoughtful analysis in making a decision. A new study by Travis Carter at the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business finds that people who are briefly exposed to the American flag shift toward Republican beliefs.

Abstract inside; full version here.

McCain Doesn’t Really Hate Economists, Does He?

Photo: soggydan Political rhetoric tends to be overwhelmingly simple while economic analysis is often needlessly complex. This is not news. But it does make for a big disconnect between what politicians say and what they hope to do — because if they publicly said what their economic advisers told them, voters would either riot or […]

The Gas Tax and the New Economics of Shame

My gas tax challenge still remains unanswered: Try to find any coherent economist willing to support Senator John McCain’s proposed gas tax holiday. In May, George Stephanopoulos posed my challenge to Hillary Clinton, who famously responded that she was “not going to put my lot in with economists.” I didn’t like her response, but at […]

What’s Wrong With Economists?

You probably recall Hillary Clinton turning anti-economist in the dying days of her campaign: “Well I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to put my lot in with economists.” And more recently John McCain has jumped aboard: “I trust the people and not the so-called economists to give the American people a little relief.” Honestly, […]

Crunching the Numbers on Sounding Presidential: A Guest Post

One of the really fun innovations in this election cycle is the extent to which the speech of the candidates has now become grist for statistical analysis. For instance, the Times’ “Caucus” blog reports that Reagan’s name was invoked 53 times last night, and by this measure Romney beat McCain 19 to 12. The Times […]

Straight Talk About Book Publishing From John McCain

From a Q&A with John McCain in today’s N.Y. Times Magazine: Q. Well, maybe you will strike it rich with your coming book, “Hard Call: Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People Who Made Them.” How did you have time to write a 450-page look at history? A. Mark Salter, my co-writer, did it. What we […]