In one of the year’s most misleading headlines, the New York Times proclaimed, “IT’S OFFICIAL: THE RICH GET RICHER.” The accompanying report covered 1979 to 2007—pointedly excluding the current recession.
Actually, the richest Americans have lost, not gained, in the downturn. IRS figures show that between 2007 and 2009, the number of taxpayers earning a million dollars or more went down 40%, while their combined income fell nearly 50%.
Meanwhile, even in the 29-year period covered by the Times there’s no evidence that gains by the top 1% harmed anyone else: the middle class and even the poor experienced simultaneous, if more modest, income boosts. If the rich get poorer, it’s an indication of continued hard times. But if the rich do get richer, it’s usually a signal of pending recovery, growth and hiring.
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