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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press People With High Income Are Just People With High Income, the Post Doesn't Have to Tell Us They are "Successful"

People With High Income Are Just People With High Income, the Post Doesn't Have to Tell Us They are "Successful"

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012 05:49

The Post can't seem to run a simple budget piece without editorializing at every opportunity. Today it referred to the high income people who would be subject to higher tax rates under a new budget deal as "successful." This assertion is only true if the criterion of success is being rich, in which case it would be more appropriate to simply refer to them as "rich." Being successful and being rich may be synonymous to the Post's editors, but that is not necessarily the view of the general population.

It also refers to the goal of reducing the projected deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade which it tells readers is:

"a target that economists say would stabilize the soaring federal debt."

It should have been possible to write the sentence without the word "soaring." (It would save space.) It's also worth noting that more serious economists (the type who are able to notice $8 trillion housing bubbles) point out that a deal reached on taxes and spending over the next decade will not bind Congresses and presidents elected in 2016, 2018, 2020 and 2022.

Therefore this is mostly a big fight over writing words on paper in a context where we have little idea of the future. This is similar to the heated debates in the 2000 elections over the year when we would pay off the federal debt. Meanwhile, both Congress and the president are ignoring the wreckage from an economy in which close to 25 million people are unemployed, underemployed or out of the workforce altogether. 

Comments (11)Add Comment
Everyones Rates Going Up, Not Just Those At The Top
written by Robert Salzberg, December 18, 2012 6:43
WaPo:

" Republicans, meanwhile, would have to not only raise taxes but also agree to raise rates on successful individuals they have dubbed “job creators.”"

But the same piece also reports:

"Obama...dropped his demand for extending the payroll tax holiday, which has benefited virtually every worker for the past two years."

So while income tax rates are just going up at the top, payroll tax rates are going up by 2% on all wage earners.

So WaPo is now either reporting that minimum wage workers are "successful individuals" or it's just horrible at reporting the facts accurately.
...
written by JSeydl, December 18, 2012 7:57
The difference between being successful and being rich cannot be overstated, especially in a world where intergenerational wealth transfers are becoming more important and where social mobility is declining. I propose -- and this is a dissertation topic I'm currently working on -- linking tax rates to family wealth. The idea is that if you were born into a wealthy family, you will have to pay higher taxes later in life, to compensate for the fact that you had (as a matter of luck) all the resources for "success."
...
written by jto, December 18, 2012 8:41
It's always refreshing to see an attack on the "wealth=success" canon which seems to have risen to axiomatic status in the current US zeitgeist. Outstanding elementary school teachers and dedicated iron workers are losers. Bankers who gamble and lose with others' wealth, and who are subsequently bailed out by the federal government, are "successful."

This country has some serious problems that a recovering economy alone will not solve.
If Free Markets Worked, The Successful and Rich Would Be the Same People
written by Last Mover, December 18, 2012 9:24
Most of the rich are not successful in the same way as say, a sports or celebrity star who can rise to the top based on genuine skills and performance. Such performers are rich because the very little room at the top still parallels their rare skills and appeal, despite how they got there, for example with a heavy dose of luck.

This does not apply to the rich in general, where the scarce room at the top has much more to do with accumulated wealth and power, its management and growth, particularly grounded in displacement and suppression of competition combined with exploitation of failed markets, and market power designed to extract economic rent, consumer surplus and labor surplus on which the accumulated concentration of wealth and power depends for survival.

In other words, the positive sum game of growth crowed by the extreme right day in and day out as driven by rich job creators is actually based on zero sum trade-offs that shrink the economic pie in the cradle, before it has a chance to flower and bloom.

As Dean Baker repeatedly lays out in detail on this blog, it's much more about how the rich got to where they are by undermining "free markets" unrelated to specific skills and performance, than it is to cast the rich as "successful" owners of "earned" income and wealth who must be taxed in zero sum fashion in order to attain an acceptable degree of inequality based on "skills and performance".

Most of the rich don't earn what they're worth because they can't in "free markets" that actually work, not even close. For most, forced to do what they preach to others and compete head to head based on strict skills and performance would put them in a welfare line in short order.
Are Drug Barons "Successful" According to the Washington Post?
written by Chris, December 18, 2012 11:16
Not if you've read any of the absurd articles in their "Drugs On Our Streets" special report, which uses much-less-deifying adjectives to describe the high-income illicit drugs industry individuals.

Just imagine if we used such subjective language like "kingpin" and "baron" to describe modern bankers and private military contractors.
Poetry
written by David, December 18, 2012 12:23
If Free Markets Worked, The Successful and Rich Would Be the Same People
written by Last Mover, December 18, 2012 9:24
...

In other words, the positive sum game of growth crowed by the extreme right day in and day out as driven by rich job creators is actually based on zero sum trade-offs that shrink the economic pie in the cradle, before it has a chance to flower and bloom.

Fantastic mixed metaphor, there, LM. May I try? The 'job creators' take everything but the kitchen sink, which they throw out with the bath water, because it's not a baby anymore and needs to take responsibility and care for its life.
What the 74% is willing to tolerate as far as taxes for the 2%
written by Rooster, December 18, 2012 4:55
Another gem from the post: "A clear majority of Americans, 74 percent, say they would tolerate Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on those with incomes over $250,000, but neither side in the talks thinks that alone would generate enough revenue to bridge the budget gap."

"Tolerate"??
...
written by jay, December 18, 2012 6:00
There shouldn't be much surprise about the slant in this article when the one of the writers focuses on "taming the national debt." There goes your objectivity right there.
...
written by liberal, December 18, 2012 11:03
Of course they're successful---very successful at accruing economic rent.
Use of the language.
written by CharlieH, December 18, 2012 11:54
By god, you would think that newspaper people knew that words had meanings. Perhaps not in Washington.
Success
written by BroD, December 22, 2012 2:23
For many, the critical success consisted of being born into a a family of means.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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