Friday, December 01, 2006

On Today's Op-Ed Page

"When the Joneses Can't Keep Up" was an interesting editorial in today's NY Times, linking that "Rich and Richer" article I commented on the other day to an article published yesterday about doctors who are shifting from specialties like obstetrics to doing Botox injections.

America has long had a problem attracting enough well-trained people to important but not particularly well-compensated positions, like public defender, social worker or teacher. But an era in which a cancer researcher moves over into health-care management consulting because the pay is better... is something else entirely.
Part of the explanation is undoubtedly a tax code that has sent the incomes of the wealthiest sliver of the nation into hyperdrive. Another might be the spike in education costs, which send many new doctors, lawyers and scientists out into the world armed with a diploma and a six-figure debt. But the bottom line seems to be that in 21st-century America, people can't feel successful unless they're making a killing.
I can't say I disagree. I was thinking yesterday about how different people adjust to changes in their earnings and taxation. Does someone like Donald Trump really cut back on his consumption in any meaningful way if his taxes go up by a percentage point? If someone making below the median income gets a tax refund, do they spend that money at Walmart, or on a new car? Of course these cause and effect relationships are a lot more complicated than that, and charitable giving and investments that create jobs are issues that come into play just as much as consumption of goods and services... but still, I've never really understood how people can justify the "trickle down" argument behind throwing money at those who already have lots of it.

Pff. Back to vacuuming.

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