Inequality Much Less If You Count Government Transfers as Part of Income

Despite the gratuitous jab contained in the “fanciful assumptions” phrase, what is notable about the passages quoted below is that Porter is mainly, though grudgingly, granting Burkhauser’s main point: including government transfers reduces allegedly high inequality.

(p. B1) Washington already redistributes income from the rich to the poor. Richard Burkhauser and Philip Armour from Cornell and Jeff Larrimore from the Joint Committee on Taxation have become heroes to the right by trying to establish that government redistribution has, in fact, erased the trend of increasing inequality.

While these claims rest on fanciful assumptions about what counts as income, their analysis of taxes and government programs does support the argument that the government does more than it has in a long time to protect lower-income Americans from the blows of the market economy.
. . .
(p. B5) “Substantial changes in tax and transfer policies during the Bush and Obama administrations have increased dramatically the resources available at the middle of the distribution and at the bottom more so,” Professor Burkhauser told me.
. . .
Research by Leslie McCall of Northwestern University finds that . . . American voters remain lukewarm about government interventions to reduce income inequality, . . .

For the full commentary, see:
Eduardo Porter. “Seeking New Tools to Address a Wage Gap.” The New York Times (Weds., NOV. 5, 2014): B1 & B5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date NOV. 4, 2014.)

The Burkhauser co-authored paper summarized above, is:
Armour, Philip, Richard V. Burkhauser, and Jeff Larrimore. “Levels and Trends in U.S. Income and Its Distribution: A Crosswalk from Market Income Towards a Comprehensive Haig-Simons Income Approach.” Southern Economic Journal 81, no. 2 (Oct. 2014): 271-93.

I believe that the research being to referred to by McCall is in her book:
McCall, Leslie. The Undeserving Rich: American Beliefs About Inequality, Opportunity, and Redistribution. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

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