Recall Jon Lovitz’s character “Frenchie” from SNL, who would say outrageous things and then say, “Oh I’m sorry, didn’t mean to offend anyone!” That is quite apropos for Thomas Piketty’s response to FoxNews when they asked him about the accusations Phil Magness and I made in our recent paper.
“I am really sorry if I attributed one specific tax decision to FDR instead of Hoover, etc.; many readers do mention typos of this sort, and of course they will be corrected in future editions; but I really do not see anything here that’s affecting any conclusion,” Piketty told FoxNews.com.
Say what you will about the passages in question, but they weren’t “typos.” If Piketty said, “I was drunk when I wrote those paragraphs” or “You know, we were using a French data base of US tax records and I have no idea what the hell those people were thinking,” or something like that, then OK I would still have been suspicious, but fair enough. But to dismiss them as quibbles over “typos”? Give me a break.
And then when Auerbach and Hassett say inequality peaked in 1995 with a corrected graph, Piketty says even if they’re right, this wouldn’t affect his conclusion.
In a way, I agree with him: Piketty knew what his conclusion was–calls for massive income and wealth taxes on the rich–before he constructed his graphs.