The Wealth Gap

The buzz all over our country these days is about the extension of the so-called Bush Tax Cuts for the ultra-rich.. well actually just those individuals making over $250,000 a year.

Last week substantiated this statement that Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made on November 30th:
"Mr. President, in the year 2007, the top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States made 23.5 percent of all income," Sanders said. "The top 1 percent earned 23.5 percent of all income--more than the entire bottom 50 percent."
Now I am not a fan of class warfare.. which this statement.. even though it may be true.. seems to reek of. But if you want to further examine the wealth gap I suggest that you check out the charts in an article titled 15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Wealth And Inequality In America - the old adage of the rich getting richer while the poor gets poorer seems to be truer every day.

I am challenged all of the time because I mostly agree with the idea that there are inequities in our system and there seems to be a bias against the poor. Yet when I see the wealthiest amongst us take the Giving Pledge I wonder if my thinking is more about something else? PJ O'Rourke said this back in 1997 - it challenges me but I am not sure that it persuades me.
"If we don't want the world's wealth to be controlled by people with money then the alternative is to have the world's wealth controlled by people with guns. ... We should quit thinking about the "wealth gap" and start thinking about wealth. Wealth is good. Everybody knows that about his own wealth. If you got rich it would be a great thing. You'd improve your life. You'd improve your family's life. You'd purchase education, travel, knowledge about the world. You'd invest in wise and worthwhile things. You'd give money to noble causes. You'd help your friends and neighbors. Your life would be better if you got rich. The lives of the people around you would be better if you got rich. Your wealth is good. So why isn't everybody else's wealth good, too? Wealth is good when many people have it. It's good when few people have it."
Yet I do wonder about the ways that the wealth of the rich has been obtained. I wonder if the philanthropy of the rich is sometimes an effort to atone for the ways that they got their wealth. We do not need to look back too far to understand how the ultra-rich mistreated workers in their quest to make a buck. Even today there seems to be a giant divide in the ways that corporate execs are compensated and the average wages of corporate workers.

Again, I can see both sides of this issue. Can you? Any thoughts about the wealth gap?


  1. Thank you for this timely post.

    You left out the best part of the Sanders quote, Bob. It continues: "The percentage of income going to the top 1 percent has nearly tripled since the 1970s."

    We have been in class warfare for decades, Bob, and the wealthiest Americans are winning big. And while Gates and friends have made news with their generosity, the fact is that giving as a % of total income goes DOWN as income rises.

    The new tax cuts for seven middle class Americans is not enough to pay the interest on the money this country must borrow to give one millionaire his extra tax cut.

    All patriots need to be concerned. When you look back at history and try to understand why dynasties collapsed -- it's almost always because of an unsustainable gap between the haves and the have nots -- a gap i fear we are rapidly approaching.

  2. Thanks for responding ED. I resonate with what you said. The reason I did not include the complete quote is because I only included the part that substantiated. The rest is probably true but I did not have the interest in validating that part of his remarks myself.

  3. There are different ways of thinking about this, Bob, some of them quite unsettling.......

    The French and Russian Revolutions came to mind while I was reading your post. The real danger in the wealth gap is that when times become very hard, the have nots can be manipulated by evil individuals with an extreme lust for power and a strong command of language. The French Revolution did not usher in democracy for France, it merely deposed/murdered a king and queen and opened the way for Napoleon Bonaparte to become an emperor with a lust for conquest. If anything, most of France's poor suffered even more during the revolution and under Napoleon than it did under a somewhat benign monarchy. Pretty much the same can be said for the Russian Revolution. Wealth in itself is not evil. Only wealth gained and used unwisely and evilly is cause for concern.

  4. @crownring - What an insightful response! I think that you and Ann would have a great discussion on those revolutions. She has shared similar thoughts with me.

  5. Hi Bob,

    I have no doubt your Ann and I would enjoy conversing about any number of things....perhaps even our husbands' sweet foibles! LOL! ;) My love of history came from having a WW2 veteran who'd served under General Patton as a high school history teacher. Mr. Jones really knew how to make history REAL to me, instead of merely drumming dry facts and dates into our heads.

    Hugs to you and Ann!


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