Every so often a graphic comes along that condenses a lot of data which, variously interpreted, is the subject of heated debate.  Here’s one of them: tax rates and income in America over half a century. 

I include it because it’s something I know I will want to refer to periodically, and because this will be the basis of debate in the upcoming presidential election – and will therefore impact on the politics of Canada, where our conventional wisdom, particularly of the right, is shaped by positions south of the border.

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A larger version can be found here in the New York Times. And here is the story from which the graphic is drawn – background on two economists, Piketty and Saez, “who have spent the last decade tracking the incomes of the poor, the middle class and the rich in countries across the world.” 

“In a way, the United States is becoming like Old Europe, which is very strange in historical perspective,” Mr. Piketty said. “The United States used to be very egalitarian, not just in spirit but in actuality. Inequality of wealth and income used to be much larger in France. And very high taxes on the very rich — that was invented in the United States,” he said.

Mr. Saez added, “Absent drastic policy changes, I doubt that income inequality will decline on its own.”

UPDATE: Further insights and reference to Piketty and Saez in this interview with Ed Luce from the Financial Times.