Income as Debt

Tom Tomorrow blasts a recent column by conservative commentator  David Brooks. Here’s the quote by David Brooks: “When you delve into this literature, you realize inequality is more complicated than some polemicists let on. For example, inequality is much lower when measured by consumption than by income because poorer people now spend much more than they officially report as income.”

Tomorrow replies:

At some point in every David Brooks column, you reach the “has he ever…?” moment. As in, “has he ever actually met/seen/spoken to a representative of the group about which he is making wild unsubstantiated generalizations?” That moment comes rather quickly in this one — in the second paragraph, to be exact… What I believe he’s referring to, with this glib reference to inequality “measured by consumption”, is what the rest of us call “crushing consumer debt”. It is not “officially reported” as income because no one capable of rational thought would ever consider charging items on a credit card to be a form of income. But to someone like David Brooks, who undoubtedly pays off his credit card balance each month without a second thought, the consumer goods that poor families may buy on credit at usurious rates — let alone the necessities such as groceries that they may be forced to charge — represent some sort of undeclared income which at least partially negates the concept of income inequality.