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June 21, 2014

In Your Opinion: We need to fix inequality of wealth

The Daily Star

---- — A wise man once said: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Against that noble standard, America is failing, and the situation is getting worse as inequality between the rich and the poor increases and social mobility lessens. Consider these items:

• The six members of the Walton family (heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune) are among the richest people in America (their total wealth is $144.7 billion, according to This amount is worth more than the bottom 40 percent of all Americans combined — about 126 million people.

• The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, as it is in about one half of all the states.

That rate of pay was enacted five years ago in 2009, and remains the same today. How fair is that in light of the fact that Social Security payments and military salaries are or have been adjusted for inflation?

• Hedge fund and private equity managers are also among our wealthiest citizens (one, David Tepper of Appaloosa Management, made $3.5 billion last year and the top 25 took in $21 billion among them). Good for them, but is it fair that because of a tax dodge, their income is taxed at 15 percent capital gains rate instead of at the top earned income tax rate of 39.6 percent? How much money do you need?

The wise man quoted above was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president who started Social Security. Imagine what life would be like today for many older Americans without it.

Lyle R. Chastaine