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Income gap is more than a moral issue

It’s disgraceful.

Oxfam, an organization that tracks world poverty levels, released a paper last year that states almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.

The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.

The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world own. That’s 85 rich people versus the other 3.5 billion.

Now reports of this sort have been staple fare in our country for a long time. But it has great meaning for us in the Land of Enchantment, because we rank last in child well-being. And we are No. 1 in child hunger. And we appear to be the poorest state percentage-wise in the U.S.

Why does New Mexico produce such doleful rankings? I know these topics are discussed in the Roundhouse, but the politicians don’t know how to fix this great wound, except with laws that are merely Band-Aids.

It’s not only disgraceful, it’s shameful.

One of the things the men and women in the governing body can do is institute a progressive tax instead of what we now have, a regressive one. This act would immediately bring relief to poor working families, and I will guarantee their savings would not wind up in an offshore account but would be funneled back into the economy.

There are others – historians, economists – who have written about this great disparity. When food workers go on strike for $15 an hour, which would keep them barely above the poverty level, our president, in his State of the Union message, wanted the minimum federal wage raised to $10.10.

This is not even a Band-Aid.

Oxfam’s Statement of Purpose, found on their website, should suffice:

“Economic inequality is rapidly increasing in the majority of countries. The wealth of the world is divided in two: almost half going to the richest one percent; the other half to the remaining 99 percent. The World Economic Forum has identified this as a major risk to human progress. Extreme economic inequality and political capture are too often interdependent. Left unchecked, political institutions become undermined and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites to the detriment of ordinary people. Extreme inequality is not inevitable, and it can and must be reversed quickly. ”

As Paul Krugman has said, “The United States is a much richer nation now than it was in 1964, but little if any of that increased wealth has trickled down to workers in the bottom half of the income distribution. The trouble is that the American right is still living in the 1970s, or actually a Reaganite fantasy of the 1970s; its notion of an anti-poverty agenda is still all about getting those layabouts to go to work and stop living off welfare.”

In 1946, the United States was the happiest country among four advanced economies; 30 years later, it was eighth among 11 advanced countries; a decade after that it ranked 10th among 23 nations, many of them from the third world.

Brings to mind the words of Raymond Chandler, “To hell with the rich, they make me sick.”

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