Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Other Opinions · The paycheck problem
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The paycheck problem

Stephen Tuttle - November 1st, 2010
The paycheck problem
As the campaigns finally, and mercifully, come to an end (and let’s
take a moment here to bow our heads in reverential thanksgiving for
whoever that blessed soul was who invented the “Mute” button on our
remote controls), there is a fairly startling issue politicians of all
stripes chose to ignore. And with good reason – no one has a clue how
to fix it, although most agree it’s a serious and growing problem.
Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics and columnist for the
New York Times, calls it “The Great Divergence.”
The problem here is the growing disparity between the very richest
Americans and the rest of us.
Economists have been keeping statistics on income disparities for a
very long time. Since the financial crash of 1929 and the subsequent
nightmare of the Great Depression, the income of those of us who
occupy the bottom 90% of the financial ladder has been slowly but
surely increasing. In 1950, for example, the bottom 90% earned 64.4%
of the income out there. By 1980, that figure had crept up to 65.4%,
maintaining a trend in which the bottom 90% was actually catching up
to the top 10%. Then it just stopped.
By 2008 that number had plummeted to 51.7%. So the top 10% of income
earners were earning nearly half of all income. And that 10%
controlled even more of the country’s wealth.
The last time we had such a difference between the haves and have-nots
was 1928.
How did such a thing happen?
The temptation is to blame it on Ronald Reagan and his unproven supply
side economics. By restructuring the tax codes Reagan relieved the
tax burden of our richest citizens, anticipating the additional funds
at their disposal would be used for investing, inventing and consumer
spending, all of which would have had a positive “trickle-down” impact
on the rest of us. The first part of the equation worked swell – the
rich got richer. But the only thing that trickled down to the rest of
us was financial woe. The economy did not expand; although,
ironically, the size of government at all levels did.
But there is no straight-line correlation between Reagan and today’s
mess. To the extent he shares some blame, he is certainly not alone.
After eight years of Reagan, we had four years of Bush the Elder,
eight years of Clinton, eight years of Bush the Lesser and now a
couple years of Obama.
During those 30 years we’ve had 20 years of Republicans in the White
House but about the same number of years of Democratic control of
Congress. In all those three decades, the only period during which
the poorest 90% made some small gains versus the top 10% were during
the Clinton administration – a Democratic president and a Republican
Capitalism, even the modified and regulated version we now use, will
always have some income disparity. An integral part of the system is
to reward investors, entrepreneurs and risk-takers. The rewards can
be enormous, especially for those already rich.
In fact, the really, really rich have been doing extraordinarily well
the last couple of years while the rest of us hung on, or worse. In,
2008, those at the very top of the income scale in the U.S., who made
$50 million a year or more, averaged $91.2 million a year. Last year,
though the number in the group shrank, their average annual income had
increased to a truly staggering $518.8 million.
Though there are only 74 individuals in that rarefied income air,
they make as much money as the 19 million Americans at the bottom of
the income ladder. That’s right – the top 74 income earners make as
much money -- almost $40 billion -- as the bottom 19 million income
Most economists agree this is an unsustainable disparity. As the gap
between the very few at the top and growing number of us at or near
the bottom increases, the economy continues to stagnate. Small
business start-ups and expansion, the backbone of the Michigan and
national economies, continue to diminish as what little capital is
available is controlled by a relative handful of our richest
The solution? Good luck finding one.
We know that attempting to redistribute the wealth through onerous
taxation will not work. Returning to the higher progressive tax rates
that existed prior to Reagan’s presidency is tempting but a practical
political impossibility. Congress was unwilling to allow the fairly
modest Bush tax cuts to expire on the very rich, so bumping them up
even more seems incredibly unlikely. The very concept of forced
wealth redistribution is antithetical to the entire idea of
capitalism, even our version of it. The truth is we haven’t yet found
that Goldilocks taxation level that isn’t too much or too little but
just right for every income level.
On the other hand, allowing capitalism to run unbridled seems to lead
us to financial calamities over and over. There must be some
reasonable regulation and equitable taxation or the system doesn’t
work for the majority.
We encourage and allow the acquisition of wealth. We accept that some
people are going to be much wealthier than most of us. But we’re not
likely to accept for much longer the reality of one-tenth of the
population making half the income and controlling 80% of the overall
We’ll see if our newly elected Congress has an answer. If not, those
of us in the bottom 90% will eventually get tired of sniffing around
under the table looking for scraps and demand a little bit bigger
share of the financial meal for ourselves. That will be a bad day for
the politicians who haven’t bothered to try and figure it out already.

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