James Q. Wilson, “Angry about inequality? Don’t blame the rich,” the Washington Post–argues that income inequality is increasing, but that it’s not something to worry about, partly due to social mobility.
Tax Foundation, “Income Inequality Is Lower Now Than It Was Under Clinton“, via Paul Caron–arguing that inequality has been decreasing.
Apropos of my earlier post, Larry Bartels has written a blog post on Bill Moyers web site (linked to on the Monkey Cage) asking whether the Occupy movement has made inequality salient in public opinion. The short answer: nope. Here’s the key table, but it’s definitely worth reading the whole post.
Of course, maybe people don’t connect their own concerns about inequality with specific policy programs. They might care about inequality more because of OWS, but not see the link to the Bush tax cuts.
In fact, this is what Bartels himself argued in his paper Homer Gets a Tax Cut, right?
Update: It turns out Pew found a 19 point jump in the percent of respondents who see a conflict between rich and poor, between 2009 and 2011. See here and here. Main graph reproduced below.
Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be many questions like this asked over time, so it’s not clear how much this can be credited to the Occupy protests.
The Washington Post reports:
More than six in 10 Americans see a widening gap between the wealthy and the less well-off in this country, and about as many want the federal government to try to shrink the divide, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Democrats and independents largely support government policies to reduce the wealth gap, while most Republicans oppose such action. The issue cuts even more sharply along a new political fault line, with tea party supporters and those backing the fledgling Occupy Wall Street movement on opposite sides of the question.
I’ve heard lots of chatter lately about how the Occupy movement has succeeded in getting inequality on the policy agenda. Polls like this could be evidence of that. Or it could be that people have always cared about inequality. To see if this is true, I created the following figure using survey data from the General Social Survey. Since the late 70s the GSS has asked the following question:
Some people think that the government in Washington ought to reduce the income differences between the rich and the poor, perhaps by raising the taxes of wealthy families or by giving income assistance to the poor. Others think that the government should not concern itself with reducing this income difference between the rich and the poor. Here is a card with a scale from 1 to 7. Think of a score of 1 as meaning that the government ought to reduce the income differences between rich and poor, and a score of 7 meaning that the government should not concern itself with reducing income differences. What score between 1 and 7 comes closest to the way you feel?
The figure below plots the proportion of respondents favoring government action to reduce income differences (below the midpoint; solid line), those against (above the midpoint; dashed line), and those replying with the midpoint on the scale (dotted line).
Note that the “reduce income differences” category has always had a plurality, though never a majority. Could differences in the way the question is worded account for the apparent 20% jump between the GSS in 2010 and the Washington Post result in 2011?
“We realized as we negotiated with the political parties is that what really changes them is the threat of losing an election,” she said. “Nothing else matters to them. That is why Anna has been saying, ‘You don’t bring the bill by December, we go back to Uttar Pradesh for campaigning.’”
From here. The electoral connection lives! Will the Occupy movement learn?
Following up on my last post, Greg Sargent at the Washington Post links to a Politico article on Wall Street donors threatening to pull funds from Democrats who come out in support of Occupy Wall Street. Hard to imagine something similar happening with the Republicans and the Tea Party.
“Wall Street protests present political dilemma,” reads the title of an Associated Press article in the Boston Globe. Here’s the leadin:
WASHINGTON—Democrats and Republicans alike are struggling to make sense of the Wall Street protests and figure out how to respond to the growing nationwide movement a month after young people pitched a tent in front of the New York Stock Exchange and began demonstrating against economic inequality.
The political establishment’s quandary centers on this question: Will the protests have long-lasting political consequences or are they simply a temporary reflection of voter frustration with the economy?
That would be an interesting problem to think about: given that politicians have to respond to voters in order to be re-elected, then they have to decide whether a protest is about real policy issues or just the state of the economy.
There’s a big assumption there, however, which is that either party really cares about the protesters in the first place. I think if you think back to the Tea Party protests, there wasn’t really any issue about how to interpret them. The Republicans simply pointed to them repeatedly and said it proved the public was on their side (citation needed). It didn’t really matter that the Tea Party demands were no less concrete than those being expressed now. Contrast that with how the Democrats are(n’t) reacting to these more recent protests.