Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely have written a paper, Building a Better America – One Wealth Quintile at a Time, which reveals something quite interesting about Americans they surveyed. Huge percentages across lines of gender, preferred 2004 presidential candidate and income levels miscalculated how upwardly skewed the distribution of wealth is in the United States, and similarly large percentages chose as ideal a level that comes closer to the wealth distribution in Sweden than of the U.S. Remember, this is accumulated wealth we're talking about, not annual income.
In the quintile chart below, the top row measures actual U.S. wealth distribution. The middle row is what respondents in the study thought wealth distribution is. The bottom row is what they thought wealth distribution ought to be.
You'll notice that the bottom 40 percent of the population owns 0.3 percent of the wealth, not enough to even show up on the chart. The top 40 percent owns 95 percent of the wealth, with 84 percent in the hands of the top 20 percent.
Horton and Ariely state:
|Given the consensus among disparate groups on the gap between an ideal distribution of wealth and the actual level of wealth inequality, why don’t more Americans – especially those with low income – advocate for greater redistribution of wealth? First, our results demonstrate that Americans appear to drastically underestimate the current level of wealth inequality, suggesting they may simply be unaware of the gap. Second, just as people have erroneous beliefs about the actual level of wealth inequality, they may also hold overly optimistic beliefs about opportunities for social mobility in the United States (Benabou & Ok, 2001; Charles & Hurst, 2003; Keister, 2005), beliefs which in turn may drive support for unequal distributions of wealth. Third, despite the fact that conservatives and liberals in our sample agree that the current level of inequality far from ideal, public disagreements about the causes of that inequality may drown out this consensus (Alesina & Angeletos, 2005; Piketty, 1995). Finally, and more broadly, Americans exhibit a general disconnect between their attitudes towards economic inequality and their self-interest and public policy preferences (Bartels, 2005; Fong, 2001), suggesting that even given increased awareness of the gap between ideal and actual wealth distributions, Americans may remain unlikely to advocate for policies that would narrow this gap.|
So while Americans believe the distribution of wealth should be more equal, the country continues doggedly to pursue policies that are making that distribution less equal.
[h/t to James Kwak at Baseline Scenario]
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At Daily Kos on this date in 2004:
Iraqi WMDs? Nope. It's Official. ... Again.
[T]here are 1202 Coalition fighters, at least 13,000 Iraqi civilians and thousands of Iraqi soldiers dead, and, according to the final report of the ISG, Saddam had no WMDs, or any concrete plans to develop them. Indeed, Iraq represented a "diminishing" threat when it was invaded by the United States. ...
Of course, as we were long ago told by Paul Wolfowitz, WMDs were chosen as a casus belli not because they represented a real threat but for "bureaucratic reasons." In other words, they knew they could simultaneously enrage and scare the shit out of the American people by saying that Iraq was joined at the hip with al Qaeda, and the next 9/11 might be a Saddam/Osama nuke in Seattle or a smallpox outbreak in Los Angeles.
The ISG report should provide great comfort to the families of soldiers and Marines returning lifeless to Dover Air Force Base.
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting has published The Media's Construction of the 'Ground Zero Mosque'