By Patrick Moran on October 27, 2011

Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan has been trying to dismiss recent studies suggesting America's tax system has disproportionately benefitted the super-wealthy. But his claims about upward mobility have themselves been refuted.

The Congressional Budget Office just released a study showing that between 1979 and 2007, income grew by 275 percent for the top 1 percent of households, whereas it grew just 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent and just under 40 percent for the next 60 percent. The income gap grew under Republican presidents who promoted low taxes on the wealthy.

Talking Points Memo reports that in a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, Rep. Ryan sought to dismiss those studies. Ryan urged that we ought "not focus on redistribution," but rather on "upward mobility." He argued that "if these studies are used as justification for erecting new and more barriers for making it harder for people to rise, all that will do is reduce our prosperity in this country."

He claimed that "We are an upwardly mobile society with a lot of income movement between groups" and contrasted that with what he described as Europe's "Top-heavy welfare states" that have allegedly "replaced the traditional aristocracies," with "masses of the long-term unemployed" being "locked into the new lower class."

The facts, however, fail to bear out Ryan's conclusions. According to TPM, the Economic Mobility Project recently released a study that analyzed the correlation between parent and child income in several countries, to analyze whether subsequent generations move up the income ladder. It found that many European countries actually have comparatively more income mobility than the the United States.

Below is a chart from the study comparing income mobility in the U.S. to Europe:

U.S. has less relative mobility than many industrialized nations.

Comments

For all of those on the right that feel or are blinded by color of the occupant of the White House, the US is descending.

Gee. Once again Rep. Ryan is lyin'. What a shocker. He confuses up with down in his statement, "We are an upwardly mobile society with a lot of income movement between groups". Evidence suggests that the vast majority of that movement is not upward. While up and down are both vertical, the similarity ends there. Kind of like the Orwellian "war is peace" schtick, now up really is down to these people.

When the richest 400 people possess the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the populace, something's amiss. One very large reason for Europe's higher level of upward mobility is that their constitutions guarantee their citizens' right to form and join unions. When America's union membership rate exceeded 30% we had the highest standard of living in the world and it drove the GOP crazy. They've not gotten any saner since.

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