Mind the Income Gap

Posted by Andrew Price

This recession has been especially hard on middle- and low-income families-who were hit harder than the people at the top-and the income gap in America has widened, according to new census data:The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans-those making more than $138,000 each year-earned 11.4 times the roughly $12,000 made by those living near or below the poverty line in 2008, according to newly released census figures. That ratio was an increase from 11.2 in 2007 and the previous high of 11.22 in 2003.When you have a really wide income gap, the problems of the majority of regular people (good public schools or affordable health care, for example) become less important to the politicians because they're less important to the people with money.But also, big income gaps are self-reinforcing because having money in the first place makes it easier to get more money. You can buy an education, buy your way into the social scenes where influential people hang out, invest, and hedge against expensive disasters.According to a new Vanity Fair/60 Minutes poll, a majority of Americans would support a 50 percent tax on the incomes of the wealthiest millionaires.How aggressively should we fight income disparity? And should we do it with income taxes or is there a better way?