Letters to the editor for Dec. 19, 2013

By Union Democrat staff December 19, 2013 04:00 pm

Income inequality: Mind the gap

To the Editor:

It’s heartening that President Obama is focusing on income inequality as the “defining challenge of our time.” The Occupy movement, I think, can take some credit, by fretting, as it has, about the gap between the so-called “1 percent” and the “99 percent.” Every week brings a new report about the super-rich getting richer, and incomes stagnating for the rest of us.

The reality of socio-economic inequality in America seems so big, so distant, that by and large we here don’t think too much about it. Indeed, why should we bother? What’s the use? But suppose for a moment that you do want to bother about it. What, if anything, can progressive-minded folks hereabouts do?

We can work to replace obstructionist Congressman Tom McClintock with a Democrat who will support such measures as eliminating tax breaks for the rich, raising the federal minimum wage, launching infrastructure/jobs projects, and extending the food stamps program.

Closer to home, we can press local government to establish and fund a free, high quality, cooperative preschool program, which would both increase disposable income for many low income families, and improve children’s prospects for success later in school.

We can support collective bargaining efforts. We can advocate for a local minimum wage higher than the state minimum — even promote the “living wage” concept. And we can continue to note that the good people at Walmart — the associates — are paid $8.81 an hour on average, while four Walmart heirs, according to a September Union Democrat article, have a combined net worth of $136 billion (that’s right, billion).

Many of us — professionals, business owners, retirees — are reasonably well off. But many, here and elsewhere, are far from well off. For them, Christmas, Christian charity notwithstanding, is likely to be somewhat less than merry.

Dick Peterson

Sonora