Opinion: The gap of the gaps

The American founders knew it. Even the modern, liberal French know it. The distinction between a mob and a populist revolution is a narrow one. Contemporary French journalist and politician Jean-Francois Revel illustrates the point beautifully: “A human group transforms itself into a crowd when it suddenly responds to a suggestion rather than to reasoning, to an image rather than to an idea, to an affirmation rather than to proof, to the repetition of a phrase rather than to arguments, to prestige rather than to competence.”

Rich! Wealthy! Income disparity! Income divide! If these words are meant to sting, does our leadership hope to foment classism? If so, is it warranted and rightly defined? Who are these “rich” people? President Barack Obama has chosen a combined annual household income of $250,000 to be the metric. He points to the very real gap from the median showing that those higher wage earners eclipse their fellow Americans by almost 6 times. Assuming that the math is correct, what is the context of this contrast?

A Gallup poll in 2013 of median incomes globally places the United States sixth highest at $43,585 with Burundi the lowest at $673. In other words, the median American family expects income 65 times of that in the comparison country. Moreover, this income number excludes the enormous infrastructure, safety-net, education and other advantages found in the U.S. The gap of the gaps is over 11 times.

Our own author, Mark Twain, said “Few things are more irritating than when someone who is wrong is also very effective in making his point.” Even as our own misguided Robin Hoods attempt to equalize inequality, are we spending too much time looking at those whom we believe have more and not enough time caring for those whom we know have less?