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: