Americans seem by intuition to be flaming lefties. A study published last year by scholars from Harvard Business School and Duke University asked Americans which country they would rather live in — one with America’s wealth distribution or one with Sweden’s. But they weren’t labeled Sweden and America. It turned out that more than 90 percent of Americans preferred to live in a country with the Swedish distribution.
Perhaps nothing gets done because, in polls, Americans hugely underestimate the level of inequality here. Not only do we aspire to live in Sweden, but we think we already do.
[...] Likewise, the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington estimates that four major tax breaks that encourage excessive corporate pay cost taxpayers $14.4 billion last year. And 26 chief executives received more in pay last year than their companies paid in total federal corporate income taxes.
Compare $14.4 billion to the $445 million which the federal government gave to PBS this year. Is firing Big Bird, as the King of Bain suggested, really going to solve anything? It’s appalling — or it should be — that the wealthiest people no longer necessarily build or produce anything (especially jobs with a living wage). They just lobby for more tax breaks, loopholes, and benefits to increase their wealth — which costs the government needed revenue and will cause austerity spending cuts for the rest of us, for balance. Big Bird is only the start of trickle down in action.
Politics aside, people know in their hearts what’s right and what’s wrong. But too many are blinded by conservative spin. From Building a Better America−−One Wealth Quintile at a Time (warning: PDF):
“For the first task, we created three unlabeled pie charts of wealth distributions, one of which depicted a perfectly equal distribution of wealth. Unbeknownst to respondents, a second distribution reflected the wealth distribution in the United States; in order to create a distribution with a level of inequality that clearly fell in between these two charts, we constructed a third pie chart from the income distribution of Sweden (Fig. 1).”
“Figure 2 shows the actual wealth distribution in the United States at the time of the survey, respondents’ overall estimate of that distribution, and respondents’ ideal distribution. These results demonstrate two clear messages. First, respondents vastly underestimated the actual level of wealth inequality in the United States, believing that the wealthiest quintile held about 59% of the wealth when the actual number is closer to 84%. More interesting, respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution, reporting a desire for the top quintile to own just 32% of the wealth. These desires for more equal distributions of wealth took the form of moving money from the top quintile to the bottom three quintiles, while leaving the second quintile unchanged, evincing a greater concern for the less fortunate than the more fortunate (Charness & Rabin, 2002).”