January 26, 2000
When the Rich Get Even Richer
To the Editor:
W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm ask, "Why Decry the Wealth Gap?"
(Op-Ed, Jan. 24).
First, inequality is correlated with political instability, one of the
strongest findings of cross-national research. Second, inequality is
correlated with violent crime. Third, economic inequality is
correlated with reduced life expectancy, shown by a large and growing
body of public health research.
A fourth reason? Simple justice. There is no moral justification for
chief executives' being paid hundreds of times more than ordinary
employees. Social policies that reduce inequality, like progressive
taxation and living wages, should be strengthened and expanded for the
health and well-being of those not at the top of the pyramid.
Ogden, Utah, Jan. 24, 2000
The writer is an assistant professor of sociology, Weber State
To the Editor:
Re "Why Decry the Wealth Gap?" (Op-Ed, Jan. 24): Americans need to
make a public choice about the standard of living that we believe the
least among us should enjoy.
We should be able to reach a consensus -- rough and fractious, to be
sure -- on minimal acceptable levels for housing, nutrition, health
care, education and other essentials.
Most of us will live well above those basic standards, and that likely
reflects personal qualities and good fortune rather than injustice.
We can also pursue voluntary actions and public policies to make sure
that our neighbors remain part of the community by not dropping below
those minimal levels.
NEIL J. SULLIVAN
New York, Jan. 24, 2000
The writer is a professor of public affairs at Baruch College, CUNY.
To the Editor:
W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm (Op-Ed, Jan. 24) assert that artificial
efforts to curb inequality do more harm than good and that Americans
ought to care more about growth than inequality. But this overlooks
the fact that people of wealth and privilege are in a position to pass
great advantages on to their children, while the children of the poor,
lacking in resources, fall further behind.
Would Mr. Cox and Mr. Alm consider Social Security an "artificial"
attempt to curb inequality? It is one of America's most successful and
popular programs. Do they think more good would be done by eliminating
One by-product of economic inequality is its debilitating effect on
social cohesion. Studies show that states and nations with great
inequality often have reduced levels of social involvement and trust.
These, in turn, are correlated with higher rates of illness and death.
Upper Montclair, N.J., Jan. 24, 2000
The writer is coordinator of the Institute for Community Studies,
Montclair State University.
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