Memo to Democrats:

Efffective immediately, please strike the phrase “top 1%” from all speeches, advertisements, interviews, magazine articles, op-eds, blog posts, press releases, campaign brochures, face-to-face conversations, and fortune cookies. According to a survey, 19% of the population thinks its income is in the top 1%. (Not surprising; 90% think they’re better-than-average drivers. We all live in Lake Wobegon.) And another 20% expects to be. [Here’s the David Brooks essay from which those numbers are drawn. Does anyone have a link to the poll itself?]

The group that will be getting 40% or more of the benefit if the Bush tax cuts become permanent should be described as “the $400,000-a-year crowd.” (Actually, the bottom limit of the top percentile is $373,000, but just make sure your poetic license is current.)

If your statistical soul won’t let you rest easy without a comparative number, you may call them “families earning more than six times as much as the median family.” But I think the raw number hits harder.


Here are the relevant tables, from Citizens for Tax Justice. By 2010, when the cuts become fully effective, the bottom cutoff of the top 1% will be more than $500,000 per year. Counting the estate tax repeal, CTJ estimates that that group will get more than half of the total benefits. (That number seems to be slightly hoked, since it leaves out the education tax breaks, which must be more evenly distributed.)

“Half-a-million-dollar-a-year crowd”?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com