George Will on Growth and Inequality: Botching a Krugman Joke

ON ABC’s This Week, the gang was debating whether rising inequality matters. Robert Reich was saying yes and noted a self-deprecating joke where he and Shaq were standing on a basketball court – “the average man here is six foot two inches”. This came right after George Will saying inequality was not that important. Will tells his joke by saying “three men enter a bar – since one of them was Bill Gates, the average man in the bar is a billionaire”. That works only if Mr. Gates was paying for the tab and writing big checks to his two champions.

But didn’t Paul Krugman tell the joke this way:

A liberal and a conservative were sitting in a bar. Then Bill Gates walked in. “Hey, we’re rich!” shouted the conservative. “The average person in this bar is now worth more than a billion!” “That’s silly,” replied the liberal. “Bill Gates raises the average, but that doesn’t make you or me any richer.” “Hah!” said the conservative, “I see you’re still practicing the discredited politics of class warfare.”

Given that the This Week discussion had already noted that the real income of the median household has not risen even as the mean income has, one has to wonder whether Mr. Will was really paying attention or ever got the point of the joke that he botched.