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不要把富人当成贫富差距的替罪羊

Nina Easton 2012年04月26日

通常人们在说到贫富差距的时候都会把矛头指向富人,指责富人靠掠夺穷人获得钱财。这样的谬论是时候结束了。与其指责富人,不如来看看他们有哪些可取之处。

    倘若我告诉你,有一群工作狂——大多拥有高学历,在工作中既有头脑、又有技能——在全球经济中取得高薪,你会怎么想?学者们发现,这一群体在双亲家庭中抚养子女的比率高于其他群体。

    你或许会认为这个群体一定受人羡慕,被人竞相效仿,是吧?情况正好相反。这就是美国饱受非议的最富1%群体,“占领华尔街”抗议声浪让他们声名狼藉,再加上此后奥巴马总统在连任竞选中大打民粹牌,1%群体的反面形象已深入民心。

    对1%俱乐部的批评声中,包括1%群体占美国收入的比例从1980年以来提升了一倍多。到2007年,这些人已占据美国总收入的近24%,为美国有史以来第二高水平,仅次于1929年。(2009年,该比例降至17%,说明经济衰退并没有对富人更仁慈些。)

    对1%富人的责难,事实上折射了美国民众对收入差距扩大以及工薪阶层现状的不满。比如,没有大学文凭的男性,薪资水平在过去30年里大降了三分之一。

    这的确令人担忧。从社会和政治角度,都有充分的理由担心不断扩大的收入差距。但把怒气撒在1%富人身上,是找错了地方。收入不是零和游戏:富人增加的收入并非来自穷人。哈佛大学(Harvard)的劳伦斯•卡茨通过计算得出,即便把1%富人增加的收入全部给99%,家庭收入的增加也不及如果人人拥有大学学历后收入增加的一半。换言之,高等教育的财务回报对收入分化的影响更大。

    确实,研究人员表示,富人更富的原因非常复杂微妙。1%俱乐部是一个庞大多样的群体,包括138万个家庭,其中最低家庭收入为34.4万美元(2009年)(几乎所有的学者都依据收入数据,因为难以获得可信的净资产数据)。不错,在最富有的1%群体中,金融业人士不少,但自由职业者和其他各类专业人士的比例也很高。而且,芝加哥大学(University of Chicago)的斯蒂文•卡普兰称,虽然CEO收入在上世纪90年代涨势惊人,过去10年实际上呈现下降。

    1%富人凭什么获得更多收入?首先,全球以及科技界的一些变化推高了不同领域内超级明星的收入:我们将之称为马友友效应。在十七世纪,一位著名大提琴演奏家的事业巅峰就是为国王演奏。如今,马友友可以在世界各地举办音乐会,赚取巨额收入。1%群体中的明星律师、银行家、医生以及那些不断开拓新市场的创业者,也是同样道理。

    高收入职业中的女性是另外一个因素。印第安纳大学(Indiana University)和美国财政部的研究者对收入排在前 1%的家庭研究后发现,2005年纳税人(大部分为男性)配偶也工作的比例增至近40%,大大高于1979年的25%。而且,这样的配偶往往也是富有的专业人士。

 

    What if I told you that there was a group of hard-driving workaholics who tend to have advanced degrees and bring a level of talent and skill to their jobs that attracts premium pay in the global economy? Scholars have found that this group is more likely than much of the population to raise their children in two-parent homes.

    You might think this was a group people would admire, even emulate, right? Not so. For this is the much-maligned 1%, whose media infamy via the Occupy Wall Street protests, followed by President Obama's populist reelection message, is now firmly embedded in the American psyche.

    The 1% club stands accused, accurately, of more than doubling its share of the nation's income since 1980. By 2007 it controlled nearly 24% of total income, the second highest in history, after 1929. (In 2009 its share dropped to 17%, suggesting that recessions aren't necessarily kind to the rich.)

    Railing about the 1% club has become shorthand for expressing outrage not only over growing income disparity but also about the state of the nation's working class. Wages of men without college diplomas, for example, have dropped by a whopping third over the past three decades.

    That's deeply troubling. Socially and politically, there are plenty of reasons to worry about the growing income gap. But rage against the 1% is misplaced. Income is not a zero-sum game: The rich aren't getting wealthier at the expense of the poor. Harvard's Lawrence Katz has calculated that even if all the gains of the top 1% were redistributed to the 99%, household incomes would go up by less than half of what they would if everyone had a college degree. In other words, the financial rewards of higher education are a big contributor to the income gap.

    Indeed, researchers say the reasons for the rich getter richer are complex and nuanced. One-percenters are a large and varied lot, consisting of 1.38 million households, with total household incomes starting at $344,000 in 2009. (Nearly all scholars rely on income figures because of the difficulty in obtaining reliable net-worth data.) Yes, finance is well-represented in the 1% club, but there is also an especially high portion of the self-employed, along with a variety of other professions. And while CEO incomes rose astronomically through the 1990s, their incomes have actually declined over the past decade, according to University of Chicago's Steven N. Kaplan.

    So what is behind the income gains of the 1%? Let's start with the global and technological changes that pump up the salaries of superstars in a range of professions: Call it the Yo-Yo Ma effect. In 1600 a famous cellist would have reached his career peak by playing for the king. Now Ma can stage concerts all over the world, with commensurate earnings. Apply that same concept to the in-demand skills of star lawyers or bankers or doctors in the 1% club, or of hungry entrepreneurs plying new markets.

    Women in high-paying professions are another factor. Researchers from Indiana University and the Treasury Department studied the top 1% of households and found that by 2005 the number of taxpayers (largely men) with working spouses rose to almost 40%, up from 25% in 1979. That spouse tends to be a wealthy professional as well.

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