Reasons for income gap

January 5, 2014 • Dear Editor

Dear Editors,

I know Keith Bell to be a decent human being, but I also know that, in his capacity as political carto[auth] onist, it is his job to represent a specific political perspective. Of course, in this part of the state, that perspective is mostly one of fiscal and social conservatism. Any political partisan perspective, either rhetorical or graphic, has the mission to both reduce the complexity of an issue to the simplest possible form, and then to convey that oversimplification in such a manner as to reinforce that belief in the true-believers and then to attempt conversion in those less inclined to think critically about the issue. The cartoon in RDR (11/23/13) depicts the middle class “crumbling” amidst a widening “income gap” between low income earners (typically the lower classes) and high income earners (typically the upper classes). An adult is then shown blaming the destruction of the middle class on “socialism.” To that I say, “cow chips.”

Please allow me to provide a more critical appraisal of the issue. To be clear, to insinuate that the increasing income gap between the wealthy and the rest of us is a result of socialism is utterly ridiculous. I would point out that the last time there was such a wide income gap was when capitalism was virtually unchecked by government regulation (regulation being a hallmark of “socialism”), which contributed to the Great Depression. When FDR’s government intervention modified our economy into a “mixed” economy, that income gap narrowed, the middle class grew, and the economy flourished. Of course, our survival as victors in the Second World War had a lot to do with that. For about three decades after WWII our country enjoyed tremendous prosperity. Since that time, the tax rates for the very rich have come down over thirty percent! It wasn’t until government slashed tax rates for the wealthiest Americans that the middle class started to shrink precipitously, the lower classes grew, and the gulf between the wealthy and the rest of us widened. There is virtually no doubt that the ultimate cause of income inequality in the U.S. is deregulated capitalism.

I am concerned about the lack of historical perspective and the blatant disregard for the reality of social dynamics which is seldom questioned in the pages of this paper. But the thing I find most troubling is that the ultra wealthy of today, unlike those in the early part of the last century, seem to have little or no regard for national solvency. The very rich in past decades were stanchly and proudly American, even when our economy shifted to slightly more socialist ideals. They understood that their wealth was a result of the American system and tied intimately to the survival of a stable economy. The corporate wealthy of today seem to have no such concern. They move production, services, and headquarters to overseas locations with impunity and seem to have only their bottom line in mind. They are content to be princes without borders.
The psychosocial mindset that I see being displayed by many of the “high income” earners of today is very similar to what I encountered among state prison inmates when I worked within that system. That mindset being: “I’ve got mine, I take care of mine, and the rest of you are on your own.” The meager social programs that exist in our current governmental system are a far cry from true “socialism.” If they were closer to it, you could bet your sweet bippy that the income gap would be much narrower.

Rick Scifres

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