This article in the Economist assesses the current wealth gap in the United States in detail and looks for explanations. Read it. It contains some striking facts, one of which is that the share of aggregate income going to the top 14,000 taxpayers in this country of 300 million is nearly 3%. That's spectacular. A graph also shows the amount of income controlled by top earners over time, from 1913 to 2004. Top earners controlled the least amount of income in this period around 1970, which is when labor unions reached their height.
This issue concerns me, because as j. morgan has eloquently argued in those long comments that gmack hates to read and refuses to write, it tends to negatively impact civic life. No one objects to certain people working harder than others, or controlling more wealth than others; but when governments start working more for the interests of the rich and powerful it becomes a problem in its own right.
The flip side is that I think that the US compares favorably in many regards with the wealthy Western European countries, Japan, Argentina, Canada and other world powers. Despite the fact that the Economist article mentions that social mobility is more flexible in Europe than most people think, I'd still rather live here than anywhere else. We have such vast wealth, so many natural resources and such hard workers that the share of income divided up by the middle class is still high, and the American dream is still possible (though not guaranteed.)
When I approach issues like this, I DON'T think to myself: how can I redistribute the earnings of those 14,000 taxpayers, so that they make less and BillyJoe down at the BP makes more? I think: how can we have a more just country?
So: is income inequality a problem? If so, what should we do about it? If not, is anything a problem? And will this blog post finally bring down the repressive North Korean regime?