Warum gibt es etwas und nicht nichts? (Why is there something rather than nothing?) - Leibniz

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Where did the funny money go?

A few days ago, I charted American public debt in the 2oth century. I also wrote to the Spectator (they didn't publish) to point out that Ronald Reagan and the Bushes were far from conservative when it came to fiscal matters, and that this did not result in benefit to the average American.

Now I come across a graph that makes it plain:

I suppose much the same happened here in the UK. So that's why we got all those posh-cooking and property-in -Provence TV programmes. We were encouraged to dream about the top echelon, not try to join them. As Eva Peron said, "I am taking the jewels from the oligarchs for you"; but somehow we never got to wear them ourselves. Not unless we went into hock for them.

This Wiki entry on the Gini coefficient remarks "Overall, there is a clear negative correlation between Gini coefficient and GDP per capita; although the U.S.A, Hong Kong and Singapore are all rich and have high Gini coefficients." Perhaps there is going to be a reversion to the standard international model: a poorer USA with a high Gini coefficient. Or (same source) a reversion to the social stratification of 1929:

"Gini indices for the United States at various times, according to the US Census Bureau:

1929: 45.0 (estimated)
1947: 37.6 (estimated)
1967: 39.7 (first year reported)
1968: 38.6 (lowest index reported)
1970: 39.4
1980: 40.3
1990: 42.8
2000: 46.2
2007: 46.3"

This blog projects a Gini convergence between the USA and Mexico - perhaps it makes sense, on the reversion-to-mean basis:


James Higham said...

Rubbed a bottle and just brushed up on my Gini. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the UK as more and more depart the bourgeoisie and hit the dole queues.

Sackerson said...

More gated communities, I fear.

dearieme said...

Your graph shows a big spurt in the Clinton years - that's the sudden huge incomes generated by the cashing in of options held by the dot.com bubblers. The tax take on those was what caused the unexpected temporary drop in government borrowing in those years, which you posted about below.

Sackerson said...

Thank you, DM. Any furthe info / references?

I did get the feeling that Clinton would've liked to have done just the same as (if not more than) his Republican colleagues, if Congress had allowed him.

hatfield girl said...

'..a reversion to the standard international model: a poorer USA with a high Gini coefficient...'

It's worth considering the difficulties of changing from poor to rich too. The more planned a society the more difficulty there seems to be changing wealth status. A high level of state planning and redistribution may yield a lower Gini co-efficient while wrecking people's life chances and blighting their pleasures Most don't mind rich people as long as we have a chance at joining in.

The high Gini and the high state control and redistribution is the absolute shocker.

Sackerson said...

Hi, HG - which examples of the latter are you thinking about?

James Higham said...

A high level of state planning and redistribution may yield a lower Gini co-efficient while wrecking people's life chances and blighting their pleasures.

Hear, hear.

Sackerson said...

But why didn't any of it trickle down?

Paddington said...

Sackerson - you can partly thank the various rounds of Republican tax cuts, which went (in dollars) mostly to the rich. There was also the suppression of real growth in wages that you have noted, and out-sourcing, which put even more money in the pockets of the shareholders (and thus the blood-sucking borkers as well).

Sackerson said...

Clearly the rich didn't buy more haircuts or auto repairs. Did anyone believe the trickle down theory at the time?

P.S. What's a borker?

Paddington said...

Sackerson - thank my inept typing. I meant 'brokers'.

dearieme said...

"Any furthe info / references?"

Sorry to be so feeble, but I read it on a blog - but my memory is that the blooger argued his case well. He was, if I remember correctly, basing it on the reminisences of a member of the Clinton administration, who had said that the huge inflow of tax revenue took them all by surprise (which makes sense - if they'd expected it, they'd have had plans ready to spend it all). Mind you, all these figures for federal deficits leave me pretty sceptical because of the suspicion that there are further liabilities that are just omitted.

Sackerson said...

I'm going to save "borker" for something.

Sackerson said...

DM: thanks. And you're probably right about off-book financing, why shpuld they be different from us?