Local view: Income equality a matter of fairness for all citizensI’ve been asked several times how I got so hung up on the topic of income equality.
By: Bernie Hughes, for the News Tribune
I’ve been asked several times how I got so hung up on the topic of income equality.
First, we all know incomes will never be equal, nor should they be in a country forever trying to improve in many different ways. My concern is that income be fair to all citizens in a nation that claims to be moral and wherein a majority of citizens claim religious values.
What do I see as fair? It is the very opposite of Ayn Rand, who sees the upper crust as “producers” and the lower end as “parasites.”
Warren Buffet speaks for very wealthy individuals who admit they receive portions of their wealth from the efforts of others in this country and should be taxed at a rate at least equal to their working secretaries.
I understand there are a few individuals on the bottom income level who are willing to subsist on meager pay and welfare handouts.
I am more concerned about the extreme income difference and, even more, the wealth difference. The top 1 percent earns 21 percent of the nation’s income, as Timothy Noah wrote in his book, released in April, “The Great Divergence.” That’s understandable: Wealth creates more wealth because it is taxed at a lower percentage, at a rate of only 15 percent. Does it make sense to you that people with more money are taxed at a lower percentage on investment income? People with more money already have other tax advantages. And they can afford to hire highly trained accountants and tax attorneys.
Have you ever wondered who buys the $200 million yachts, $40 million private jets and $5 million luxury watches, to list only a few extravagances? Rush Limbaugh can afford five homes in Palm Beach, and he doesn’t sit at the top of the money list. Can you blissfully and compassionately accept that and focus on the welfare mother who connived to gain more before being discovered and punished? President Reagan exaggerated the story of just such a woman, claiming she drove a Cadillac.
When I was a youngster during the Great Depression, there were “poor farms” where people in poverty were able to cooperatively survive.
During the 2008 financial fandango, too many lost their homes. Elite wealth, on the other hand, emerged in great shape without even proper repayment for financial trickery. Yet we focus on those at the bottom caught cheating taxpayers out of subsistence food.
When did I become so interested in income inequality? It was in 2004 when I was involved in seeking charitable donations from businesses in Superior. While explaining to one business owner about the need for a contribution, low-wage workers nearby overheard and immediately offered cash out of their pockets. Not long afterward, I learned the president and CEO of the American Red Cross, Marsha J. Evans, was very well-paid for an organization that seeks charity: Evans received $468,599 in salary and benefits in fiscal 2003, according to BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Recalling the low-wage workers digging a few dollars out of their pockets to help caused me a very troubled conscience when continuing my charitable solicitations.
Can we get our wealthy policymakers to consider fairness? Most of us know what is right. We should do what is right and reduce the spread of income and wealth inequality.
Bernie Hughes of Superior is professor emeritus of educational administration at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.