Wealth in America | Oct. 3
Nothing to be proud of
If you knew of a country where 20 percent of the people owned more than 84 percent of the wealth, would you think it was a Latin American dictatorship?
If you found that a single country accounted for a full quarter of the world's prisoners, would you think of Asian communists?
Well, thanks to the Times, we know the correct answer to both questions is us: the United States. Does that make you proud?
Since Ronald Reagan promised us a new dawn in 1980, our national income and wealth have been concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Now we find that those few individuals want to use their wealth to purchase political power. Through advertising and the unfettered influence of certain corporate media, and hiding behind noble phrases like "free trade" and "private enterprise," they sell us a more sinister agenda.
Unregulated, these economic theories lead to consolidation of wealth and oligarchy — political rule by a small economic elite. Under these slogans they have given us outsourcing, inflated executive pay and an unprecedented financial crisis.
Consider these facts when you see the supposedly populist tea party with their slick slogans. Ask yourself who brewed it before you drink that tea.
Gregg Niemi, Tampa
Equal opportunity doesn't mean equality of result
If the top 20 percent of Americans own 84 percent of the wealth, so what!
Our American capitalist economy is the envy of the world, as evidenced by the numbers of foreigners who come here to live instead of going to socialist Europe or elsewhere. Whether they know it or not, both Americans and immigrants — legal or illegal — believe in our system of equal opportunity, not a government-mandated "equitable result" or "equality of result."
Entrepreneurs — whether a small business professional like myself with a few employees, or an investor with millions to start a company with hundreds or thousands of employees — make America the economic powerhouse of the world. If, after paying all the taxes, fees and costs, we have more of the wealth, it is because we created it with our energy and intelligence, paying employees and buying goods and services along the way.
Daniel P. Carter, Seminole
The lead story in Perspective should be enough for anyone to sit up and take notice of the concentration of wealth in this country. Such a concentration has a pernicious and corrosive effect on our democracy.
One wealthy individual can have the same political clout as 100,000 ordinary citizens. If the tea party was really concerned about smaller government and more freedom, it would promote a more progressive tax structure. But somehow I suspect it will support big-money interests, which will continue to manipulate our system.
It ought to be one of the primary goals of government, and Teddy Roosevelt recognized this with his trust-busting, to break up growing economic power so that its influence doesn't grow to the point where it controls government. Strong antitrust laws that are enforced and progressive taxes are but two ways we can have a more just and equitable democracy.
Mark Brandt, Dunedin
Don't punish the prudent
While your article on wealth indicates that most Americans want a fairer distribution of wealth, they are loath to push the government to make it happen.
I understand this dilemma. If my brother and I make the same income for 35 years and he spends lavishly on large homes, fancy cars and indulges his every whim, while I live modestly and invest my money in 401(k)s, IRAs and other investments, I will retire wealthy and he will retire poor. What would be the fairest way for the government to redistribute my wealth to my brother?
It seems to me redistribution of wealth punishes those who do the right thing and rewards those who do the wrong thing. As a nation we want our children to work hard, save and invest for their future. But to encourage this good behavior and then ask the government to redistribute it to those who demonstrate irresponsible behavior is an exercise in cognitive dissonance.
Wealth should be the reward for individual responsibility, not a function of government readjustment.
Tryg Johnson, Largo
A simplistic view
The article on wealth dangerously portrays a very simplistic economic view: that there is only so much wealth to go around and what one person gains must be at the expense of another person. This zero-sum view is good for inciting class warfare but horrible for representing reality.
What the article fails to show is that these pie charts can grow larger. One nation's pie can be larger than another's and, best of all, every pie can continue to grow.
Dante DelGrosso, St. Petersburg
I have been studying the distribution of wealth in the United States and found Sunday's article very stimulating. With 80 percent of us dividing only 16 percent of the wealth, no wonder I still live with my mother!
Jennifer Stekol, Clearwater