Inequality Debate: A Math Major Flunks Statistics

Mark Thoma thoroughly demolishes the latest nonsense from Thomas Nugent, including this comment:

He also questions the use of the median rather than the mean to measure changes in income over time which not a productive avenue to follow as the median is generally accepted as the better measure.

I was so stunned at the possibility that even a National Review nitwit would use the change in mean income in a discussion of income dispersion that I had to go check what Nugent said. While he was not precisely saying we should look at the mean, what he said was even worse:

Some of Krugman’s inequality cohorts prefer to use median or average family income in presenting their arguments. But what further undermines any of these positions is that we have added millions of people to the list of employed, most of whom are at the lower end of the income scale. Being a math major, such additions would tell me that the traditional “average” income level would fall. Seven million new workers are better off than if they didn’t have a job. How do the redistributionists argue against that economic gain?

Nugent was a math major? Surprising given some of his very odd writing. But let’s suppose we did have normal employment growth (I’ll forgive the comment that “we have added millions of people to the list of employed” as one cannot write for Rich Lowry if one actually understands the dismal labor market performance over the past five and a half years). Wouldn’t the normal “a rising tide lift all boats” argument that we often hear from the Bush cheerleaders (OK, the reality is that we have a shallow pool supporting only yachts but bear with me) suggest that last generation’s young’uns have become this generation’s managers etc. Which would mean income distribution would not have widened.

But it has. Nugent is basically telling the working class married fellow that he should be elated to have an always low wages Wal Mart job as the alternative is massive unemployment. I realize that the macroeconomic performance of this Administration basically sucked – but I never thought I’d see such a graphic statement of this reality from one of those Bush cheerleaders at the National Review.

Update: Since AB reader Muckdog brought the latest regarding always low prices Wal Mart, check out what Kevin Drum has to say about low drug prices and low wages.