La segunda Edad de Oro de los Estados Unidos

El distrito electoral más rico de los EU es el llamado distrito de las "medias de seda" en el lado Este de la ciudad de Nueva York, con un ingreso per cápita de 41,151 dólares al año. El distrito más pobre es uno compuesto en su mayoría por inmigrantes hispanos en Los Angeles, con un ingreso per cápita anual de 6,997 dólares. En 1973, el 20% más pobre de las familias estadounidenses tenía ingresos de 13,240 dólares al año en promedio (en dólares actuales). En 2000, el ingreso del 20% más pobre era el mismo: 13,320 dólares. En contraste, el 5% más rico de las familias estadounidenses en 1973 tenía un ingreso anual promedio de 149,150 dólares, y en 2000 era de 254,840. El aumento en la desigualdad fue tan grande que elevó el ingreso de los ricos en un 66% en el mismo lapso en que el de las clases medias creció sólo un 10% y el de los estratos bajos no creció.

Para los extranjeros, lo más peculiar de la creciente desigualdad en Estados Unidos es que muy pocos estadounidenses tienen objeciones. Seguramente una sociedad con desequilibrios en la distribución del ingreso está en peores condiciones que una donde los ingresos son más parejos. Diez mil dólares adicionales al año no elevan gran cosa el bienestar de un multimillonario, mientras que un déficit de esa cantidad tiene un enorme impacto en la forma en que vive una familia de clase media.

Si seguimos el principio utilitario del Premio Nóbel James Buchanan de que hay que evaluar el bienestar social de una sociedad imaginando que existe la misma oportunidad de ser pobre que de ser rico, es fácil concluir que la sociedad más igualitaria tiene un mejor conjunto de arreglos sociales y económicos. De ahí es fácil dar el salto a la postura de que (siempre y cuando los impuestos redistributivos no desaceleren el crecimiento económico) cuando la desigualdad aumenta, es el deber del gobierno fijar impuestos a los ricos y transferir el dinero a los pobres para equilibrar ese aumento.

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