Op-Ed: Income Inequality Makes You…Shorter? And Other Odds And Ends From The World Of The Rich

AMSTERDAM–Can greater income inequality make you shorter?  Well, we wouldn’t be surprised, given past studies that show poorer health outcomes for the poor.  But apparently the evidence is more direct – and long-lived.

That’s because a new study shows that back in the mid 1800s, the Dutch ranked as one of the world’s shortest populations.  Over the last 150 years, they’ve gone from standing three inches on average shorter than Americans to nearly three inches taller.

The Dutch aren’t taking height-enhancing drugs.  They’re just living, many analysts believe, in a more equitable society.  The news site Vox surveyed the latest research on inequality and height and ended up calling a possible linkage between the two “plausible — and somewhat disturbing.”

Height may amount to a marker that no unequal society can hide.  Unequal societies, on the other hand, can hide the wealth of their wealthy.  You may find the enormity of the hidden wealth we spotlight more than “somewhat” disturbing.

Billionaire Phil Knight must not like mixing business with pleasure.  The long-time top dog at Nike has been parking his latest toy, a personal $64.5-million Gulfstream private jet, at a Portland, Ore., airport hangar that his company runs.

But that hangar has been getting a little crowded, and Knight is now having his own private hangar built, right next to the Nike hangar.  He’s paying $7.6 million for the construction, thePortland Business Journal reports, and will spend another $53,327 in annual rent to the airport.

Knight’s most frequent destinations?  His homes in central Oregon and Southern California.  Knight will sometimes let Nike employees hitchhike on his jet.  The sneaker mogul, the publication adds, has been known to “leave those employees standing on the tarmac if they don’t board the aircraft by the scheduled departure time.”

In the developed world today, almost one of five young adults aged 16 to 24 have no jobs, and inequality, business analysts Mark Esposito and Terence Tse have just documented, is driving a good part of this youth unemployment dynamic.  Many jobs today — “particularly the most lucrative” — have become, they add, “available almost exclusively to young people from wealthy backgrounds.”  One example: In the United Kingdom, only 7 percent of children attend private schools.  But two-thirds of the nation’s doctors have been privately educated.

Gino Gargiulo really likes his screaming yellow $750,000 Lamborghini roadster.  How much?  The Miami fast-food tycoon spent $1.1 million getting a speedboat customized to match it. Explains Gargiulo: “I’m one of those people that always has to have to have a project.”  This particular project Gargiulo apparently really likes. Seven years ago, he had a boat customized to match his Mercedes.

Get some politics with your popcorn this summer. Check for a local screening of Citizen Koch, a powerful new film on how billionaires are distorting democracy — and how we can stop them.  The Kochs, multbillionaire Right Wing oil barons from Kansas City, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to impose their extremist agenda on the rest of us, by buying elections and drowning pro-worker lawmakers and candidates in a sea of scurrilous ads.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower left office in 1961, lots of Americans know, warning against the “military-industrial complex.”  But few know that only a few months earlier Ike also delivered a spirited warning against letting wealth concentrate with a “fabulously wealthy” few.  Ike’s story is in Too Much editor Sam Pizzigati’s  new history of the triumph over America’s original plutocracy.

Anyone who dares suggest we “tax the rich” now faces, all around the world, a torrent of tired — but still potent arguments — for going gentle on the ultra affluent.

Higher taxes on the rich, the protectors of our wealthiest so enjoy insisting, will slow the economy to a crawl and so turn off the most “successful” among us that they’ll simply work fewer hours rather than pay more at tax time.

And in the end, the argument continues, higher taxes on the rich won’t even raise more revenue.  Higher taxes on high incomes will only encourage the rich to pack up and flee to friendlier shores.

In a new monograph from the London-based Equality Trust with the tongue-tangling title

“Course Correction: The Pre-Distributive Case for the 50 Percent Top Income Tax Rate,” authors Madeleine Power and Tim Stacey spiritedly take on — and concisely demolish — all these arguments against upping tax rates on our most comfortable.

Power and Stacey specifically prepared Course Correction for a British audience.  But you don’t have to be British to benefit from their research. The pair explore in these pages the global evidence on tax rates, economic growth, and economic inequality.

For egalitarians everywhere, useful insights aplenty.

-PAI