America is the Stingiest Rich Country in the World


Over at the Economist, Steven Mazie directs me to a recent New Yorker piece on income inequality by John Cassidy. Its most revealing chart, Mazie says, is one that compares raw income inequality in various rich countries (as calculated by GINI scores) to income inequality after taxes and government transfers. In other words, it helps us see which countries do the most to fight the relentless rise in income inequality over the past three decades.

But I wanted to see that more directly, so I re-charted the data. All I did was calculate how much taxes and transfers reduced inequality in every country that had high inequality to begin with. Unsurprisingly, whether you use raw number or percentages, the United States is #1:

The United States is one of the richest countries in the world, with a top 1 percent that’s seen its income triple or more in the past three decades. And yet, we also do the least to fight the rising tide of income inequality. Government programs in America reduce the level of inequality by only 26 percent. Nobody else is so stingy.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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