# Mark Perry on Income Differences

by on October 26, 2011

There’s recently been a huge outpouring of data-rich analyses of studies of the statistics on income differences in the U.S.  And one of the best is supplied by Mark Perry over at AEI’s Enterprise Blog.  (Be sure also to click on each of the many links that Mark has in this post.)

Note that on a per-household-earner basis, the average income in 2010 for households in the top quintile was only 3.28 times larger than the average income for households in the lowest quintile.  That is, if you divide the income earned by each earner in the average household in first the bottom, and then in the top, quintile, you get \$11,034/0.42=\$26,271 and \$169,633/1.97=\$86,108.

While \$169,633 is 15.37 times larger than \$11,034, \$86,108 is only 3.28 times larger than \$26,271.  In other words, while the average household income for households in the top quintile is 15.37 times larger than the average income of households in the bottom quintile, average per-household-earner income for households in the top quintile is only 3.28 times larger than is average per-household-earner income for households in the bottom quintile.

Looked at in this way, the “inequality” is revealed to be much more modest.

Be Sociable, Share!

Jon October 26, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Question: what, exactly, is “income” in this context? Is it only wages paid, or does it include benefits (such as stock options or health insurance), annuity payments and Grandpa’s Social Security check?

Invisible Backhand October 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm

don’t forget capital gains, dividends, stock options, corporate jet…

Jon October 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Right, that’s what I meant by benefits.

I mean, if my income was just my pay, then I make peanuts. But if you include my benefits (stock options, health insurance, etc), I am doing quite well for myself.

kyle8 October 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm

It cuts both ways, if you exclude food stamps, EIC, SS income, and other aides then the lowest quintile look a lot worse off than they are.

Anotherphil October 26, 2011 at 8:41 pm

TANF, Medicaid, subsidized housing, subsidized daycare and the other baubles used to keep the votes reliably statist.

Anotherphil October 26, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Oh and lets not forget the “earned income tax credit” that the IRS spends millions on every spring to assure that people get their government cheese.

John Dewey October 26, 2011 at 6:26 pm

If you are really interested in getting an answer, you could follow the links in Mark Perry’s post. You will eventually get to the glossary for the data Mark used. On pages 109 through 111 of 2011 Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement to the Current Population Survey you will find all the types of income which were included.

McBrideR October 26, 2011 at 6:29 pm

From the data source report; “The income and poverty estimates shown in this report are based solely on money income before taxes and do not include the value of noncash benefits, such as nutritional assistance, Medicare, Medicaid, public housing,and employer-provided fringe benefits.” Money income would include interest and dividends. I believe that it does not include capital gains. I believe most stock options are structured such that the main, or only, income is from capital gains. It also does not include Earned Income Tax Credits.

Invisible Backhand October 26, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Good catch. Capital gains are excluded, which is where the rich get their money. You would think an economist would know this.

P. 31: ata on income collected in the ASEC
by the U.S. Census Bureau cover
of certain money receipts such as
capital gains)
before payments for
personal income taxes, social security,
union dues, Medicare deductions,
etc. Therefore, money income does
not reflect the fact that some families
food stamps, health benefits, subsi-
dized housing, and goods produced
and consumed on the farm. In addi-
tion, money income does not reflect
the fact that noncash benefits are also
which often take the form of the use
ties, full or partial payments by busi-
ness for retirement programs, medical
and educational expenses, etc. Data
users should consider these ele-
ments when comparing income levels.

P, 61 The official poverty thresholds are
updated annually for inflation using
the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U). The
official poverty definition uses money
income before taxes and tax credits
and excludes capital gains and non-
cash benefits (such as Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program benefits
and housing assistance). The thresh-
olds do not vary geographically.

http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf

Methinks1776 October 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm

where the rich get their money.

LOL!!!!

Invisible Backhand October 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm

http://i.imgur.com/c79K5.png

Invisible Backhand October 27, 2011 at 11:37 am

That shut her up.

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Something as idiotic as singling out 400 tax returns doesn’t really need a response except to tell the idiot who posted it that it doesn’t need a response because, being an idiot, he hasn’t worked that out on his own and never will.

You’re welcome.

mmccandless October 27, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I’m not sure that the acknowledgement that some substantial portion of money earned by top performers is not accounted for in many of these reports means that they should be taxed more. It is nearly the recognition of a fact. As most people who have “worked on their own” will attest to. The best way to record earnings is to take a small paycheck and then report capital gains at the end of the year. The point isn’t that they should tax me more, rather that these statistics are useless.

Darren October 27, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Capital gains are excluded, which is where the rich get their money.

Remember they must first have accumulated the capital to begin with. It would be interesting to know what portion of income is from capital gains for, say, the top 1.0 or 0.1 percent of people in terms of wealth. How ‘rich’ does one have to be to be getting the majority of income in the form of capital gains?

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Not to mention that capital gains tax is on top of corporate taxes. Even if you pay nothing on cap gains, the corporation you own a piece of already paid taxes.

Invisible Backhand October 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm

How ‘rich’ does one have to be to be getting the majority of income in the form of capital gains?

It depends. A pro athlete can be rich but make his money as salary, but a widow can be living off capital gains because she inherited her husband’s share in a partnership.

Inherited wealth (which is how the vast majority of the current rich got that way) is not taxed except for how much it grows in a year, which is capital gains.

Here’s a chart: http://i.imgur.com/c79K5.png

Invisible Backhand October 27, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Not to mention that capital gains tax is on top of corporate taxes. Even if you pay nothing on cap gains, the corporation you own a piece of already paid taxes.

Which has nothing to do with anything. My employer pays taxes and I have to pay taxes on what they pay me. Why do you deserve a better deal for your equity position? You can already write off your losses.

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 3:02 pm

but a widow can be living off capital gains because she inherited her husband’s share in a partnership

A partnership is a disregarded entity. Unless the widow is selling off her share in the partnership, her income from it is likely classified as “income” and taxed at the regular income tax rate.

Inherited wealth (which is how the vast majority of the current rich got that way)

Not in this country.

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Which has nothing to do with anything. My employer pays taxes and I have to pay taxes on what they pay me.

You don’t understand the difference? He pays you on a pre-tax basis. That is, first he pays you and then he is taxed on what’s left.

When you sell a stock, you pay a cap gains tax on top of the tax paid by the corporation in which you owned stock.

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Only if you have investment income to write off your losses against. What do you want? For people to pay taxes on non-existent income?

Have you ever filed a tax return or are you one of the 51% that doesn’t pay a dime?

PKSully October 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm

The whole income inequality argument is nonsense but the denominator for the top quintile of 1.97 is at best a trick of statistics. Maybe that’s investment income or something else but it can’t really be that 97% of the top quintile has 2 breadwinners. In my personal experience, it’s about 20-30%. There’s something funky going on with the measurement.

Methinks1776 October 26, 2011 at 4:14 pm

It’s rare for both husband and wife to be high income earners and if one is a high income earner, it’s not worth it for the other to work. My money’s on the spouse earning passive income like investment income or rental income from property or an investment portfolio held in their name.

Jon October 26, 2011 at 4:16 pm

True, but you do get some double-power families.

Don Boudreaux October 26, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Hmmm…. It’s rare that I disagree with Methinks, but my sense is that a large percentage of these highest-quintile families are ones in which both spouses work.

But, of course, this is a classic empirical question.

Jon October 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Got it. Thanks, Dr. Boudreaux

Jon October 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Methinks1776 October 26, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Don, on second thought, you’re probably right.

If I may change my hypothesis:

At the lower end of the top quintile there are very likely quite a lot of power couples. Like marries like, right? At the top of the quintile, there are probably far fewer. I clearly had only the top of the quintile in mind when I wrote that – what with all the talk of the 1% and all recently.

txslr October 26, 2011 at 5:03 pm

The solution to this pressing crisis is obvious. Force the well-to-do to marry poor people. And the super rich should be forced into polygamy, again, with poor spouses. Voila’, problem solved!

Methinks1776 October 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Force the well-to-do to marry poor people.

No need for force! An astonishing number (not really) of rich people are married to ex strippers, former secretaries and catalog models. If you really want equality, you should force them to marry old ugly people and allow them to practice polygamy. What an incentive! Instead of one old and ugly spouse you can have eight!

problems solved. Government style – where there is no problem and a heinous solution.

vidyohs October 26, 2011 at 7:25 pm

It is a strange thing, but I know quite a few high dollar families in the Houston area and this is what I see.

Families in which the income is mainly from an industrial source (i.e. manufacturing, industrial supply, industrial construction) that produces a lot of wealth, the wife does not work.

Families in which the income is from the practice of a high dollar profession (i.e. law, medicine, accounting), usually both husband and wife work, and not always at the same profession, thought that is more typical.

Stone Glasgow October 27, 2011 at 7:23 am

The wife is still working.

John Dewey October 26, 2011 at 6:38 pm

methinks: “My money’s on the spouse earning passive income like investment income or rental income from property or an investment portfolio held in their name.”

Don: “my sense is that a large percentage of these highest-quintile families are ones in which both spouses work.”

My guess is that you are both correct. The highest quintile families include both situations, and large quantities of each. That’s especially true with this measurement of household income, which includes wages, salaries, dividends, interest income, Social Security, and much more. If a non-working spouse receives any income from any of these sources, the household is at least a two-earner household.

Also, even if a household includes a non-working spouse, that doesn’t mean the household cannot have a working child. If a very high income head of household wants to instill a work ethic in his live-at-home child, he just may require that the kid work at something.

Anotherphil October 26, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I disagree with Methinks, but my sense is that a large percentage of these highest-quintile families are ones in which both spouses work.

Indeed, wasn’t something like this the operational premise of the “The Bell Curve”-that the workplace either directly or indirectly provided one’s mate pool and that caused a strong tendency to create intellectual stratification.

Itchy October 26, 2011 at 5:02 pm

It is right in the 3rd table in one of Perry’s sources:
http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstables/032011/hhinc/new05_000.htm

74.8% of the top quintile are 2 or more earner households … this says nothing about the income distribution in the household

PKSully October 26, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I see that now. So 56% are 2 incs, 13% are 3, and 6% are 4 or more with those families having another 836k earners in total. I’d guess the >2 earner families have some investments held in children’s names. I guess my sons technically earn a couple bucks off Disney dividends making us a 5 income family when Dad is profitable, 4 when not. I think the whole income “distribution” is a silly stat like most readers here but my kids aren’t earners except in a technical sense. They’re lovable freeloaders.

John Dewey October 26, 2011 at 6:42 pm

from the glosary of the survey from which Mark Perry obtained the data:

“The file includes all persons 15 years old and over in the household with \$1 or more in wages and salaries”

vidyohs October 26, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Let’s just axe this woman what the answers are.

Be-fo you gets all uproared.

brotio October 27, 2011 at 2:44 am

Wow!

Still more intelligible than Yasafi Muirduck. But still – wow.

DMac October 27, 2011 at 8:11 am

It’s also possible that the number of income earners in a household can include working children. My two college student kids have jobs in the summer, and are a part of my household. We have 4 “Income Earners” in the house. Also, my 80 year old mother is a part of the lowest quintile, based on her Social Security and am small pension. However, thanks to CapGains, she is reasonable comfortable in one of the middle quintiles, if all sources of support are counted, in a household of one.

Ian October 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm

How is the number of earners per household in the lowest quintile less than 1?

gregworrel October 26, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Some are unemployed, so no earners in some households.

Jon October 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Or SSI, I should think

Don Boudreaux October 26, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Simple. Take a sample of two, single-person households. In one household no one works (say, a 22 year old in college away from home, and supported by his parents). In a second, single-person household the householder works full time. On average, these two households together have 0.5 income earners.

cmprostreet October 26, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Does the parental support for the non-working 22 year-old count as income for that household (and likewise get extracted from his parents’ household income)? If not, then accounting for this would reduce the income disparity even further, as i am sure there are more inter-family payments from high income households to low-income households than vice versa.

Bastiat Smith October 26, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Don,

A little poorly worded, but I catch your drift. This whole inequality argument, besides being irrelevant, imo, also matters for whom you want to create sympathy and antipathy. You use the top quintile, while ows uses the top 1%. The bottom line being that the numbers say whatever they are wanted to say.

Standard of living is a far more important indicator of well being. Though it’s also impossible to measure with a great degree of accuracy. But I don’t think a quintile exists that isn’t using cell phonse and microwaves, that was a decade earlier.

Jon October 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Hell, for that matter cable TV and air conditioning.

Ken October 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Bill Whittle does a fine job showing just that.

Regards,
Ken

Jon October 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

I think it was Russ (maybe Don) who posted a slide show showing how items have gotten cheaper per hour worked over the generations.

All I know is my grandfather is jealous over all the luxuries I have and he didn’t. And he earned twice what I am making now

Ken October 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Yep. Don did.

Regards,
Ken

Invisible Backhand October 26, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Hey Ken, can you find the link where Russ or Don talked about the Hayek/Social Security story? Thanks. The Hayek/Pinochet story too if you can find it.

Jon October 26, 2011 at 4:19 pm

It’s amazing how much that puts things in perspective, isn’t it? My favorite is the clock-radio, how before you had to work 1.66 days (assuming an 8 hour work day) but now one only has to work 35 minutes, which he probably spends chatting at the water cooler!

Ken October 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm

IB,

If those posts exists, do they have anything to do with income inequality or Mark Perry’s analysis?

Regards,
Ken

Ken October 26, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Jon,

Yes, that post and power point are fantastic.

Regards,
Ken

Itchy October 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I can’t believe I missed that one. He didn’t have to convert to 2011 dollars … it just confuses the issue. Using current cost and current hourly rate the only thing to consider is the required number of hours worked to purchase an item.

What is also missing is a way to account for the fact that the crappiest dishwasher available today is quieter, more energy efficient, and better cleaning than the one from 1975.

A better example is my father’s 1982 Betamax video Camera which was “State-of-the-Art” (I was a very big purchase for the family) .vs HD camera on my iPhone, let alone a new camcorder.

Ken October 26, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Don,

Are the numbers broken down by hours worked? For example, if Jack earned \$80,000 in a year working 1900 hours and John earns \$35,000 in a year working 500 hours, then John’s per hour earnings are 60% higher than Jack’s, despite Jack’s yearly earnings being 128% higher than John’s.

Regards,
Ken

Jon October 26, 2011 at 4:02 pm

It is broken down somewhat into part- and full-time workers

Invisible Backhand October 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm

aha, so that’s why they call themselves the 80 percenters.

W.E. Heasley October 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Excellent post and excellent data prepared by Dr. Perry!

One might want to consider the following regarding the supposed current “crisis” regarding equality of income and distribution of income:

(1) According to the anointed and their vision, the equality of income and its companion the distribution of income are in crisis. That is, in the last six months the anointed, academia, and media are promoting class warfare through the argument that equality of income and distribution of income are not fair and just.

(2) A small nagging problem exists with the above argument: the last eighty some years of policy, programs, and progressive taxation leading to transfer payments creating a supposed equality of income and just and fair distribution of income WAS THEIR IDEA!

(3) The course of action over the last eighty years is their doing. Now somehow, someway we are supposed to forget the source of the action and merely concentrate on a manufactured “crisis”. Hence the “crisis”, if it indeed existed, would logically be a result of the action. The action being their actions over the last eighty years.

(4) Hence their argument is stupendously stupid as they are, in fact, arguing their own policy is a failure. That the “crisis”, as it where, is in fact a crisis of their own making. Brilliant! Stating their argument alternatively, we failed but judge us on our intentions and not our results.

(5) Moreover, eighty years ago, guess what the egalitarian argument was regarding income? You guessed it! Eight years ago the argument was about the equality of income and its companion the distribution of income and yes, income equality and distribution were in “crisis“. Better yet, eighty years ago the wonderful world of the anointed, academia, and media were going to take imperfection and improve it to “perfection” regarding the equality of income and its companion the distribution of income.

One might say history is repeating itself. Maybe. -Or- are notional propositions deployed, in a political effort of comparing the impossible idea of perfect with the real life world of imperfect, and the notional propositions are in fact purposefully repeated fallacy? That history is not repeating itself as much as some people promote in a purposefully fashion the event of history repeating itself.

kyle8 October 26, 2011 at 6:25 pm

History cannot repeat for the socialists because this time around, government has no money, and most governments are broke.

Also, even the average person can see from the examples such as Greece, Spain, and California, that ever increased spending just is not sustainable.

Darren October 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm

even the average person

The average person has a short memory.

Itchy October 26, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Why the focus on the income inequality metric? What Perry’s chart really show is that being married (more efficient use of resources?) and being educated (duh!) are better for your bottom line.

If you subtract out the top 1% from the top quintile or even the top 0.1% I bet the ratio get’s even smaller, maybe?

Ken October 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Itchy,

It’s important to understand that marriage and education do not make one wealthy. The types of people that become wealthy typically get married and get educated. Marriage and education correlate with wealth, but they do not cause it.

Regards,
Ken

Jon October 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Unless you’re the priest marrying people

Itchy October 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Ken,

I wasn’t trying to imply cause and effect, just that a correlation exists.

People can change … I was certainly not marriage material at 20.

People in the bottom 20% would move out of that quintle a lot easier if they tried to emulate people in the top 20% instead of complaining about them.

Ken October 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Itchy,

Fair enough. And you bring up a fantastic point about age. Twenty years olds typically aren’t good at anything, not just marriage, and their earnings reflect that. I think a lot of people in the bottom 20% simply age out of it.

Regards,
Ken

Itchy October 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Ken,

Actually the data show that only 44% of households in the bottom quintile are between 35-65, while 75% of the top quintile fall in the “peak earning years”

Additionally, 62% of households in the bottom quintile had ZERO earners … probably the reason they fall in the bottom 20%

Economiser October 26, 2011 at 6:19 pm

This is great stuff…

RGV October 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm

The point of disagreement is mostly about the top 1% or mabye even the top 0.1%. And that too only for those sucking on the teets of the nanny state (like finance types). I don’t think anyone gives a whit about how much Page and Brin or Spielberg make. So, this post is adding hardly anything useful to that national debate.

Jon October 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Well, I think it does. It’s the black swan effect. If the claim is the gulf between the rich and the poor is growing at 15.whatever%, then this re frames the debate. By eliminating the black swan and focusing on income per earning, it provides a clearer picture.

Methinks1776 October 26, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Yeah, RGV!!

Every single one a dem “finance types” is just suckin’ offa da teet of da guverment! Who needs access to capital, and developed capital markets you don’t understand anyway? Go git ‘em.

muirgeo October 27, 2011 at 12:17 am

You’re an idiot in denial methinks. The system is so specifically rigged to favor those in finance especially those with access to the fed. Believe and push the BS you want but the overwhelming majority of Americans are on to it because they understand how FOS people like you are.

\$17 trillion dollars of loans to your industry in just the last three years.

YOU very clearly are an elitist and a protector of the political class. The times they are a changing;

HEHE …good bye to that a-hole…more to follow.You pretty sure you and your hubby are clean… because the times are a changing.

RGV October 27, 2011 at 1:56 am

Actually yes. If the govt hadn’t bailed them out, the contagion would have wiped a good chunk of them out due to liquidity if not solvency issues.
Ask them. On a good day, they will admit to as much.

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 7:53 am

The supposed contagion – a debatable outcome and one I don’t think would have been as world ending as our overlords in government claimed – would have no more wiped out the people in finance than it would have wiped you out. By your logic, anyone with a bank or brokerage account (and that’s everybody) would have been wiped out. So, again by your logic, we’re all sucking off the teet of government – which means that we’re all sucking off each others’ teets.

I don’t buy the contagion argument. and the liquidity argument is weak at best. Banks were having liquidity issues. Brokerage was not. The brokerage units of the banks and each brokerage house were all doing great. What has happened when financial firms have gone bankrupt before is that divisions that weren’t bankrupt are sold off or spun out on their own. The funds in brokerage cannot be comingled with other funds, so the accounts of every mom and pop and hedge fund alike would have been fine. The prop trading divisions were also doing well for the most part – taking advantage of the volatility. The government could have done that with AIG, Merrill, etc., but it chose to transfer wealth from taxpayers to the banks’ and insurer’s counterparties instead.

Stone Glasgow October 27, 2011 at 7:29 am

Murg, you don’t understand what money is; or the basic purpose of trading.

PKSully October 26, 2011 at 6:40 pm

This is my argument with the OWS crowd. They paint every finance type as being a crony. The bozos out in front of the CBOT have a problem with exchange traders. Had CDS been exchange traded and commonly cleared which the CME/CBoT lobbied for (Oh no, they lobbied for their own self interests, they must be evil!), price discovery and 3rd party risk management would have done it’s job and the bubble would have been much smaller. The prices of that insurance wouldn’t have been so cheap, the leverage wouldn’t be so great and the risk would have been spread around more. Trading serves a social function and protesters who spray their vehemence at all “financial” types lose credibility and look like thugs.

John Dewey October 26, 2011 at 6:53 pm

One of my complaints with the OWS crowd is that they are asking for relief from Student Loans just as the big banks got relief through TARP. As has been pointed out before at Cafe Hayek – by methinks, Ii believe – the bailout of the big banks was in the form of loans, which have since been paid back. So, if the OWS crowd wants similar relief for student loans, well, they already have it. They got loans from a government program. Now all they have to do is what the Big Banks did – pay the damn loans back.

Of course, if what they want is relief such as GMAC (now Ally Financial) and AIG got, all they have to do is sell themselves to the government (enlist in the armed forces?)

Methinks1776 October 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Morganovich points that out about TARP as well – more than I do.

PKSully, trading serves and important function, but I would say its most important function is liquidity provision – from which good things flow. I can’t accept as a given, though, that the bubble would have been smaller.

The quantity of teeny puts being written would have been obvious if CDS were exchange traded. If you are the only trader writing those puts (or you have few competitors), then you would charge a higher premium as the demand curve shifted – the cost of insurance would rise. But, if you had a lot of competitors, it’s not at all clear that the price of the premium would rise – or at least not rise above where the OTC market would have priced it.

In theory, because OTC traders’ information about the whole market is fragmented, they would charge a higher price for the premium to compensate for the additional risk. The premiums in the OTC market should have been higher than exchange traded CDS. Of course, their ability to do so is also subject to competition. CDS buyers will call multiple dealers before transacting.

It’s possible CDS premiums would have been higher and the leverage lower had they been exchange traded, but I just can’t accept that as a given. I’m concerned about this because standardizing and forcing derivatives onto exchanges is being offered as a panacea and I just don’t think the answer is that simple.

PKSully October 26, 2011 at 8:52 pm

I think it would have helped because, from what I’ve heard, the participants– market makers- in the CDS OTC market had 2 fatal flaws in their market, both self inflicted,that public markets don’t have to as great an extent. They were able to keep the number of market makers to a minimum making it easier for them to “believe their own shit” — their wildly optimistic pricing of risk– and when the market began to move against them they were able to settle their short positions their way, well through actual bids. They put off the day of reckoning. These activities both go on in the market I’m most familiar with but not nearly as egregiously nor for as long. We regularly have mini blowouts or at least puking events where many locals and customers are forced to start over. My thinking is had this happened sooner in the CDS market the open interest would have been smaller, the price discovery process/ correction would have been more orderly and slower. Anecdotally, when we’ve had massive vol moves our group has puked, gotten back in, puked again etc. The toxic positions move around the market like chips at a poker table instead of having one big showdown hand. That’s how I’d explain it anyway.

Anotherphil October 26, 2011 at 8:59 pm

“PKSully, trading serves and important function, but I would say its most important function is liquidity provision – from which good things flow. I can’t accept as a given, though, that the bubble would have been smaller. ”

And if you every had to advise somebody who has a significant portion of their worldly goods in a closely held business, you’d realize how important it is to be able to sell something without the counterparty realizing you are a distressed seller (even without the saprophytes of government looking to turn a death into a revenue event).

Methinks1776 October 26, 2011 at 9:22 pm

That’s a damn fine point. CDS prices would be expected to be driven to fair and faster because more people are trading them in a more transparent market. Blowouts can be large, but not as large as in the less transparent OTC market limited to AAA rated counterparties.

And there’s the added bonus that none of us get bailed out by taxpayers when we blow up. Not the the OWSers know that. Or much of anything.

Thanks.

Methinks1776 October 26, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Touche, Anotherphil.

Love the use of “saprophytes”, btw.

Stone Glasgow October 27, 2011 at 7:39 am

Blah blah, Methinks, all those “default swaps” are just another term for usurious abuse of the common man! You’re just trading imaginary crap; go dig graves with a spoon. Y’all must be so greedy and lazy. Sheesh.

Stone Glasgow October 27, 2011 at 7:40 am

Nice word Phil.

muirgeo October 27, 2011 at 12:25 am

Here’s the deal jackwads… you wanna be a bank in the future you can loan money in proportion to what you have. You can make loans for homes and other things but that’s it. You are gonna hold on to the loans and take responsibility for them. No more gambling with other peoples money under the guise that you are doing something really important. Boring banking shall return. If you guys want to make complex financial transactions there’s plenty of other jacks wads just like yourselves and you can all play with each other all you want but there’s gonna be a big wall between your casino games and the real economy… That’s the future for you guys. You got it?

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 7:41 am

…as I was saying about the idiots in the OWS.

Let me ask you a question you may have a chance of answering correctly if you get help from one of your hamsters, Muirdiot. Is “jackwad” one word or two? Is it “jacks wads” or just one jack and one wad?

James Strong October 26, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Oh man, great stuff!

Chris O'Leary October 26, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Who cares?

Some people are more intelligent than others. Some people are harder workers than others. Increasing numbers of products can be enjoyed by customers on a global scale, making the wins even bigger.

Methinks1776 October 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Obviously, the people who care are the ones with lots of bitter and no gumption. I recently read an article in the WSJ where Tom Petterfy proposed holding high frequency trades for a fraction of a second while allowing market makers (he’s a market maker) the ability to do what they want. Why? Well, Tom, one of the pioneers of computer trading and all for it when he was ahead of the pack, is no longer competitive. The HFT shops have pulled ahead of him. Instead of getting his act together and figuring out how to compete, he wants the SEC to create rents for him. Disgusting. This kind of whining is becoming prevalent.

muirgeo October 27, 2011 at 12:27 am

No we’re gonna just put a little transaction tax into the mix. HFT totally useless to the real world and only valuable to the criminally intent.

Stone Glasgow October 27, 2011 at 7:50 am

In 1892, paying your power,water, medical, tax, and healthcare bills instantly, by wire or check, would have been “high frequency” trading. Are you sure it’s so bad?

The trading of today is no more intelligible to modern doctors than to late 19th-century physicians. Heyek was wise to ask about the “curious task” of economics.

Appo Agbamu October 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm

GenAppo is a blog that gives insight to our generation on economic issues that will impact us. These decision are being made whether or not we get involved. Lets Reclaim Our Future.

Krishnan October 26, 2011 at 5:28 pm

The class warrior will add this

“See? I told you – In the high quintile, there are too many people working and so making it difficult for people in the lower quintile to work and earn a living – If they did not work and earn that money, the people at the bottom would have that money – Imagine if instead of the 1.97 it was half of that – so, the real problem is that people who have money work too much and so leave less for the poor – So it is time to fire those rich people and give their jobs to poor people”

So, working and earning a living itself will be classified as a sin and an egregious one at that – Class Warriors are incorrigible – there is nothing you can say …

Randy October 26, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Numbers… Trying to imagine an income number that would cause me to feel envious, but I really can’t. The closest I can get is perhaps a touch in knowing that my little brother makes more than I do. But hey, I could have been an accountant… and that hardly seems like enough of an issue to become a socialist over. So I’m thinking its not really the numbers that drive these people at all. I think that their ideology is the driver and they just use whatever numbers are handly in order to rationalize it.

muirgeo October 26, 2011 at 6:41 pm

What a ridiculous post…. as if the OWS protestors carry signs saying we’re the 80%.

In fact the massive increases of wealth confined to the top 0.1% amount to some significant 4-5% of the gross GDP…. THAT might explain a lot of the protestors concerns that have to do with our real economic disfunction
But when you are paid to protect the fortunes of others via the AEI you have to say something and hope no one is paying attention.

I read the title and knew right off not to expect much. These people have no shame and they must really not think much of the intelligence of their readers.

Ken October 26, 2011 at 6:45 pm

What would you be angry about if you couldn’t be angry about others getting richer faster than you?

Regards,
Ken

muirgeo October 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm

What would you be angry about if you couldn’t be angry about others getting richer faster than you?

Regards,
Ken

Stupid people like you ignoring \$17 trillion dollars of free loans going to the big banks. You’re an idiot and that makes me angry and sad.

Anotherphil October 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Where the hell do you have your head? Nobody here liked TARP or any other crap. How about stupid people like you ignoring Fannie/Freddie, Solyndra, et al..

Observer October 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Muirgeo, you are an idiot and that neither makes me mad nor sad. But, it is rambling incoherently when you argue for greater government power then complain when the big government does something stupid like making \$17 trillion in loans to political cronies like Goldman Sachs.

Ken October 26, 2011 at 10:17 pm

muirgeo,

When have I ever ignored government malfeasance?! I constantly complain and point out government malfeasance, especially when you defend it. Knowing history as I do, I want government to be small because something called regulatory capture happens when government gets to large, as it always does. Yet your solution, paradoxically, is to grow government, even though you are well aware of regulatory capture.

An example is Obamacare. You think single payer health care is good, but when the US takes a step closer you actually have the audacity to act surprised that big insurance and big medicine cozied up with the writers of that legislation to capture as much regulation in their favor as possible.

Again, you are a stain.

Regards,
Ken

Stone Glasgow October 27, 2011 at 7:56 am

He believes in men greater than he; men with the ability to honorably and dutifully protect the innocent, filthy masses. Like Santa Claus. Or Robin Hood.

Old Crow October 26, 2011 at 7:35 pm

They think enough to believe their readers can understand a Pareto distribution.

Maximum Liberty October 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm

I’m unclear. Does OWS mean “Occupy WalletS”? Or it is simply a misspelling of OWeS?

Sarcastically yours,
Max

Methinks1776 October 26, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Darren October 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I think it means Ominous Wet Stains or some such.

Bill October 26, 2011 at 6:53 pm

USAToday had a piece this morning on the shrinking proportion of total income earned by the middle 3 quintiles (“Middle Class”) of the distribution of HOUSEHOLD incomes. I wonder what their data would look like if they were adjusted to reflect the number of earners per household, or does this even make sense?

http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/story/2011-10-25/middle-class-disappearing/50914822/1

muirgeo October 26, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Again…. more than the whole of our national debt (\$17 trillion dollars) was loaned over the last three years alone to not much more than 10 major banking institutions.

If some one thinks there is no inequality going on at the highest tiers and of a significant amount…you are being foolish beyond reason.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-cMCe4G0Zh_U/TqIKoUY7tjI/AAAAAAAAAEk/iX2vNvS6LF8/s1600/Fed+Audit+of+Secret+Loans+copy.jpg

If instead the government used those 17 trillion dollars to relive home owners of their sup prime loans (they’d have needed far less) we’d here socialism screamed form all our libertarian friends. Yet I suspect our economy would be much further along and the numbers at the top wouldn’t favor the top 0..1% so much.

You don’t get to ignore \$17 trillion dollars and then go on to talk about inequality as if those \$17 trillion were not significant.

You don’t get to say, “Oh we are against corporate welfare to” and then assume the massive increase in incomes of the top 0.1% (close to 4-5% of GDP) are not an issue or not related to corporate welfare…\$17 trillion….unreal

You guys aren’t even trying to be serious. You’re protecting a belief and nothing more.

Observer October 26, 2011 at 9:05 pm

You idiot. You constantly argue for bigger government then whine like a child when that government does something stupid with the money. Get a clue!

muirgeo October 27, 2011 at 12:01 am

Observer I argue for a government by the people NOT by the wealthy elites… it’s pretty straight forward no matter how much you need to mis-represent my position in favor of defending yours that for some bizarre reason claims to be about liberty yet protects the elite ruling class at every turn. I know what I believe in… I have NO idea WTH you believe in.

Ken October 27, 2011 at 12:18 am

I argue for a government by the people NOT by the wealthy elites… it’s pretty straight forward no matter

Straight forward? This is why you get branded an idiot. Democracy was invented about 2500 years ago in Greece and there are still problems. If it’s so easy and straight forward, then you’d think people could have figured it out in all that time. I’m sure you have all sorts of excuses, like greed, anger, envy, you know human nature. If what your talking about doesn’t take that into account, then whatever you have to say isn’t “pretty straight forward”. And if you are taking that into account, then whatever you have to say isn’t “pretty straight forward” as human nature is about as fickle as anything on God’s green earth.

You offer platitudes, like “I argue for a government by the people”, but what do you mean by that? Are “elites” not “the people”? If not, who are they? How can they be distinguished from “the people”? Are we to simply show up at your door with all 310,000,000 and have you one by one point out who “the people” are and who the “elites” are?

How practical is that? Do you have any practical solutions for any of the problems in America today, or just broad stroke ideas with words that have fuzzy meanings, like “the people” and “elites”?

Regards,
Ken

Randy October 27, 2011 at 7:08 am

Excellent breakdown!

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm

muirgeo

seriously, this “17 trillion . . . loaned over the last three years alone” is a complete nonstarter.

For starters, your math is all wrong. If I loan you \$1 million for a day I have made you a loan of \$1 million, but that is not the same as a loan of \$1 million for a year or \$10 years.

Second, the security was there. The loans have been repaid, as I understand, in full.

Third, the loans were to meet the daily vagaries of liquidity. Banks and other firms don’t know, in advance, when money will come in or go out. Thus, throughout the day they manage their deposit balances at the Fed.

The money for these loans could not have gone toward home loans or anything else. They didn’t crowd out or preclude such loans.

Seriously dude, find a dog that will hunt

muirgeo October 27, 2011 at 12:02 am

Nikolai…. you are completely uninteresting to me. There’s no logical consistency to what you write. Please don’t bother to reply to my post. I’m not the least bit interested.

Ken October 27, 2011 at 12:27 am

There’s no logical consistency to what you write.

Ha! Hilarious!!

Regards,
Ken

brotio October 27, 2011 at 2:57 am

LMAO!

Because he doesn’t blow Democrat politicians 24/7 like you do, he’s not ideologically pure enough?

And you accuse us of being rigid.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 27, 2011 at 7:39 am

muirgeo

I am the only one here who is logically consistent, for my comments are not based on incentive caused bias and are non- partisan

there are a million things you can say about big banks and the fed, in the past (Greenspan), but this \$17 trillion loan thing doesn’t hunt

If we are to make it through this period (which I doubt), it is going to be because the fed uses this ability to lend a lot more than \$17 trillion.

you need to learn some judgment. Rick Santelli isn’t right about much but he was right on about the personal responsibility of people whose loans are underwater. We need to get to the bottom of our housing markets. There was only one solution—bankruptcy cram down. Obama refused to back it; Congress refused to pass it. Your saying the \$17 trillion should be used for replacement loans is stupid. Are you going to pay off the current loans in full? How would that make us better off? Where is the moral hazard?

brotio October 27, 2011 at 2:54 am

more than the whole of our national debt (\$17 trillion dollars) was loaned over the last three years alone to not much more than 10 major banking institutions.

All of those loans were written by a Democrat-controlled congress, and most were signed by a Democrat president.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 27, 2011 at 7:42 am

All of those loans were written by a Democrat-controlled congress, and most were signed by a Democrat president.

this is a complete lie and fabrication

now one cent of these “loans” were made by Congress or signed by the President. These were liquidity operations by the Federal Reserve

brotio October 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Muirdiot’s incoherence makes it difficult to know what he’s bitching about. Is he crying about bailouts (which he favors as long as it only goes to unions)?

If what he’s bitching about is as you claim, then it was not a lie or fabrication, it was a mistake on my part. I do hope you comprehend the difference between a lie and a mistake.

Maximum Liberty October 26, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I did a quick calculation of the same number for the top 5% that Professor Boudreaux did for the top 20%. I get \$143,191 per earner. That’s considerably more than \$86,108 per earner, but not unintuitively so.

Of course, the top 5% is part of the top 20%, so the 15% that is in the top 20% but not in the top 5% would have a lower income per earner than the \$86k figure.

Interestingly, the top 5% households had just slightly more than 2 earners per household on average. It was 2.009, but that was based on on 5,933 houesholds, so maybe that’s not significant. The remainder after 2 disappears if you add 30 no-earner households into the mix. But I would have inuited that the number would asymptotically approach 2. So much for my intuition.

Max

Dano October 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm

I had lunch today with a person who had emigrated from Soviet Union. He mentioned that in 1964 Kruschev told the Soviet people that the USSR would be a communist country in 1980 and that Russian immigrants to the US reported back that the US already was a communist country — they were receiving SSI, getting apartments, and could even buy a cheap car; none of which they were able to do in the USSR.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm

What inquiring minds want to know is why are these bloggers so commited to the proposition that income inequality is not as bad as it is.

Its worse. Read Suskind’s Confidence Men for a good summary

Randy October 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I’ll take it a step further than that. Income inequality is good. Laziness and stupidity should have a cost.

James Strong October 26, 2011 at 10:28 pm

While technically you are correct, I would avoid using that argument for two reasons:

- Not all income inequality is due to laziness and stupidity.
- It’s a stereotypical argument that undermines some of the more important reasons to not worry about income inequality.

Randy October 27, 2011 at 7:25 am

James,
I hear you. The argument is not politically correct. But I don’t see the real problem as having anything to do with income inequality. As it does not take any great degree of effort or intelligence to be reasonably comfortable (call it “middle class”) in this country, the real problem can be limited to those who do not do what it takes to reach this level – and the primary reasons why people do not do what it takes to reach this level are laziness and stupidity. The truly handicapped can be easily taken care of by family and/or charity, but the only cure for laziness and stupidity is to allow them to have a severe cost.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 27, 2011 at 7:43 am

reasons to not worry about income inequality, which would be?

Randy October 27, 2011 at 8:13 am

For starters, when has worrying about income inequality ever helped anyone? Well… I will concede that promoting worry about income inequality has been beneficial to politicians, but its not beneficial to anyone else.

Methinks1776 October 26, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Who cares?

Stone Glasgow October 27, 2011 at 7:59 am

He does; he thinks a nation can be managed like a family. Like the USSR, or Cuba.

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 8:40 am

You mean where income inequality was far greater and there was zero chance of anyone not politically connected (which was almost everyone) to be able to do anything to improve his lot in life while the kleptocracy fed off the corpses?

RobHolmes October 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I left this comment over at Perry’s blog, but thought you blokes would enjoy it here. At Political Calculations (http://politicalcalculations.blogspot.com/2011/10/real-story-behind-rising-us-income.html) they look at the Gini Coeffecient for individual earners and find that *gasp* it is pretty much constant since the ’60s. The household Gini Coeffeicient goes up, but this is probably primarily due to demographics such as those pointed out by Perry.

Canada Goose Parkas October 26, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Yes, the income difference is too inequality and it also cause many other social problems. The goverment should pay more attention to adjust this matter.

Ken October 26, 2011 at 11:29 pm

CGP,

Richard Epstein clearly explains why government should not do this.

Regards,
Ken

Ryan Vann October 26, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Why aren’t individual wages being compared here, instead of the nebulous “household”?

Economiser October 26, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Because that result doesn’t fit into the agenda of the authors.

muirgeo October 27, 2011 at 12:08 am

Here’s how it is presented by a rational reality based person so even you republicans can understand it.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#45055472

Ken October 27, 2011 at 12:24 am

muirgeo,

So, again, your mad because you didn’t see your income rise as fast as others. In all that anger, you completely forget that your income has increased, as everyone’s has increased. Everyone’s life is better because everyone earns more, while at the same time prices dropped significantly and being the greedy person you are, yell IT’S NOT FAIR!!

Well, calm down all ready and stop being angry that your life is getting better all the time.

Regards,
Ken

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 27, 2011 at 5:44 am

why do you feel compelled to defend changes in income inequality?

Ken October 27, 2011 at 10:46 am

Nicki,

Because it is driven by base human emotions, like jealousy and envy.

Why do you feel compelled to ignore the fact that everyone’s lives are better off and focus on base emotions?

Regards,
Ken

Ken October 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

Edit: Because focusing on income inequality is driven by base human emotions, like jealousy and envy.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 27, 2011 at 5:45 am

the CBO has been information on this subject

http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/124xx/doc12485/WebSummary.pdf

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 27, 2011 at 5:55 am

the discussions of income inequality, above, are so shallow that they ought to be erased, especially the opening post.

No argument exists that income inequality is a good thing. First, both Depressions in the last 100 years occurred at the peak of income inequality!!!! Fool me once, as they say!!!

Second, everyone just went Blah Blah Blah about investment, but investment has been declining as income inequality has risen!!!!

Third, and the case is well made in Suskind’s Confidence Men, the income being distributed came from some very lazy short term behaviors. The depth of his book is every interesting. He clearly explains we are where we are because much of American business stopped blocking and tackling.

crabguy October 27, 2011 at 8:29 am

Of course lumping the megarich into the entire top quartile will lower the appearance of a large difference between rich and poor. Let’s see you do the analysis using just the obscene top 1% on one side and whatever group you want on the other.

mmccandless October 27, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I initially left this on a different post but then decided I may get a better answer from this one.

I was wondering if the data cited in these income charts record home equity as income. I notice that most of the data sets only go to 2005, if home equity is being cited as income in these studies and the housing bubble is inflating home prices, then incomes and consumption would also be inflated. If they do only use wages in these studies then how do they account for business owners who take most or all of their income as capital gains in order to take advantage of the the lower tax rate as most small business owners including myself do.

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm

No, it is not.

mmccandless October 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm

I’m not sure I understand the response. What is not? It seems that if they do use home equity as income than many people in the lower quintiles would be artificially richer than they really are. If they do not take home equity into account than many people in the upper quintiles are much richer than they appear. Does the way they record data change if a second mortgage is taken out if not how do they account for that with consumption figures. You can see where I am going. My dad makes this arguement all of the time and I have no ammunition. Are all of these reports meaningless because of the complexity of the variables? Is there any way for a non specialist to understand what they are accounting for?

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Home equity is not classified as income. Loans such as HELOCs are not considered income either. A loan is not income – it is borrowing against your future income.

Furthermore, business owners do not take most of their income as capital gains. Businesses are usually set up as S or C corporations, LLCs or partnerships. S & C corps are subject to double taxation. LLCs and partnerships are disregarded entities for the purposes of the IRS. That is, income from those businesses flows through to the partners’ personal income tax forms. Unless you happen to be a partner in a venture capital or private equity fund, I don’t know how you’re managing to classify your income from your business as LT cap gains. Are you sure you’re not making a mistake on your taxes?

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 5:36 pm

If they do not take home equity into account than many people in the upper quintiles are much richer than they appear.

mmccandless October 28, 2011 at 12:37 am

Thanks I’ll do more research! I’m not really sure how my taxes are being filed actually as I don’t do them myself. All I know is that I collect almost no check and just report one big sum and pay some percentage. I thought it was just being reported a gains. What’s up with all of the statements then from rich guys saying they pay less then their secretaries?

Methinks1776 October 28, 2011 at 7:54 am

It can’t be gains unless it’s a sale of an investment. You’re paying income tax (or you need to change accountants).

Warren Buffet is the only one saying that and he has an agenda. He’s also lying. Unless he’s paying his secretary \$1MM per year, she’s not paying more (as a percentage) than he is. Buffet owns companies that sell products to help high earners minimize their tax burden. The higher taxes on high earners, the more valuable the products. He’s self-serving. Moreover, if he (on anyone) thinks he’s not paying enough, he can always cut a larger check to the IRS. He doesn’t do that. He wants you to pay more.

House of Cards & Economic Freedom October 27, 2011 at 6:16 pm

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/zuccotti_hell_kitchen_i5biNyYYhpa8MSYIL9xSDL

The Occupy Wall Street volunteer kitchen staff launched a “counter” revolution yesterday — because they’re angry about working 18-hour days to provide food for “professional homeless” people and ex-cons masquerading as protesters.

For three days beginning tomorrow, the cooks will serve only brown rice and other spartan grub instead of the usual menu of organic chicken and vegetables, spaghetti bolognese, and roasted beet and sheep’s-milk-cheese salad.

They will also provide directions to local soup kitchens for the vagrants, criminals and other freeloaders who have been descending on Zuccotti Park in increasing numbers every day.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

[But I thought this was all about doing away with narrow self-interest and practicing, instead, that beautfiul maxim of Marxism, "From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs." If the freeloaders, er, I mean, the protestors are hungry, it's the obligation of the volunteer kitchen staff to continue providing free food for them.]

J. W. October 27, 2011 at 6:32 pm

“For three days beginning tomorrow, the cooks will serve only brown rice and other spartan grub instead of the usual menu of organic chicken and vegetables, spaghetti bolognese, and roasted beet and sheep’s-milk-cheese salad.”

Since “the 99%” eat far more extravagantly than I, where does that put me?

House of Cards & Economic Freedom October 27, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Since “the 99%” eat far more extravagantly than I, where does that put me?

LOL! You’re right. We’re just lumpenproletariat. I often get home late from work and make myself a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich and can of Campbell’s “Chunky” soup.

Methinks1776 October 27, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Since “the 99%” eat far more extravagantly than I, where does that put me?

Wishing your office were near Zucotti Park so you could nip down there for a gourmet free lunch!

Previous post:

Next post: