And All Your Fortune Lies Beneath Your Hat

Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’

Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography, 1906

I really don’t know what to make of these competing claims, so I’ll open it to you. What I will say is anecdotal. Since 2003 (which coincidentally is the year that I graduated high school), my net worth has more than doubled. I’m not narcissistic enough to imagine this is solely due to the wisdom of my personal investment choices. Public policy has its role in that outcome.

Net worth is different from net income, of course, and to the extent capital gains are taken and left untaxed—in the past decade and a half, that’s a big part of the taxation story—my income is higher than it otherwise would have been. That still leaves me puzzling over whether the problem has been overstated. My intuition tells me it has not. What does yours say?

A New Study Says Much of the Rise in Inequality Is an Illusion.
Should You Believe It?

Image: “Human manifestations of income and wealth inequality, at a charity event in New York City. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images,” according to the caption on the linked article. A bit unkind, perhaps; the women may merely be ordinary fashion victims. In any event, this particular one—event, that is—is called the “Hat Luncheon” and raises money for what Central Park needs beyond the funds of New York City’s government. Just so we’re clear on the millinerial exuberance, as it were.

 

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