How Rich Is Too Rich? Income and Wealth in America

How Rich Is Too Rich? Income and Wealth in America

How Rich Is Too Rich? Income and Wealth in America

How Rich Is Too Rich? Income and Wealth in America


"a new twist on the eternal question of inequitable income distribution, though they focus on wealth (accumulated income) rather than income. The authors document the dramatic disparities in the distributions of income and wealth and describe the problems these cause. Their solution, the alternative distribution system," is quite simple: tax inheritance rather than estates. Individuals could inherit up to $1 million tax free. Each succeeding million would be taxed at progressively higher rates. This plan, they argue, would force an estate to be distributed among more people and would cuase beneficiaries to use inheritances more vigorously and creatively.' The authors do an excellent job of making obscure economic data understandable." Booklist


With the advent of the Presidential primaries and caucuses in early 1992, questions about income distribution and wealth again echo throughout the land. True, it's mostly the Democrats who are making noises about unfairness. Senator Al Gore Jr. of Tennessee proposed an increase in tax rates for the most affluent in May 1991, in order to reduce the overwhelming budget deficit. in September, House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt accused Ronald Reagan and George Bush of carrying on a "class war against middle-class families to benefit the wealthiest people in our society."

But Republicans have paid attention to the issue as well. Teddy Roosevelt, an idol of George Bush, advocated a vast redistribution of income and wealth that most Democrats today would shy away from. Newt Gingrich, one of the more unconventional Congressional Republicans, has suggested publicly that conservatives should do some serious thinking about economic redistribution.

Missing from most of the political accusations and counter-claims is some understanding of just how rich is too rich. Quite often, the decision as to what level of income or wealth is "excessive" is based on some multiple of ten, which in turn is based on the number of fingers we have on our two hands.

For example, Citizens for Tax Justice, a lobbying group, has said that tax cuts in the 1980s for the richest million Americans added $1 trillion to the national debt. Kevin Phillips, in his book The Politics of Rich and Poor, spends considerable space charting the rise of the top 1% -- one out of 100 -- of the income and wealth pyramid. Paul Posner of the General Accounting Office defines high incomes as those exceeding $100,000 annually.

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