A Bait and Switch From Inequality Deniers

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LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 01:  Protesters hold signs as they march to Los Angeles City Hall during the "Occupy Los Angeles" demonstration in solidarity with the ongoing "Occupy Wall Street" protest in New York City on October 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The protesters slogan, "We are the 99 percent," calls attention to the fact that marchers are not part of the 1 percent of Americans who hold a vast portion of the nation's wealth.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Photo: Kevork Djansezian/2011 Getty Images

Since today's New York Times quotes me disparaging Charles Murray’s new book, I have become the anti-Charles Murray guy, even though I have not read his new book, have no opinion on it, and am open to the possibility that it’s completely right. I should probably do a better job of explaining what I meant in my blog item last week about the Charles Murray dodge.

The dodge isn’t by Charles Murray, as far as I know. Murray has a book about how changing social norms have created a widening gap between the bottom 80 percent and the top 20 percent. Like I said, I haven’t read it. My problem is not with Murray. My problem is with people like David Brooks and James Pethokoukis who cite Murray in attempt to dismiss the inequality gap between the top one percent and the bottom 99 percent, which is a completely different issue.

Murray is writing about the gulf between educated, upper-middle-class whites and working-class whites. Important issue! Quite possibly related to the decline of marriage and social norms, as Murray argues. But this is not the same thing as the economic question of the top one percent hoovering up a vastly increasing chunk of the national income, and what implications this has for things like tax policy.

I have no problem with Murray discussing his issue. My problem is with others pretending his issue is the same thing as the other one, which they clearly prefer to avoid or simply deny.