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Why the poor envy the rich

March 29, 2009

Re: Michael Hiltzik's business column, "A change in how the rich are seen," March 19:

The people at the bottom of the economic ladder are not complaining that their share of the pie is insufficient to meet their daily needs.

What they're complaining about is that the people who work hard, the people who have talent and are successful, are getting a bigger slice of the pie than they are. Well, duh.

Bill Gravlin

Rancho Palos Verdes

::

Mr. Hiltzik invokes history to support the notion that a progressive income tax was "based less on raising revenue for the state than breaking up concentrations of wealth, inherited and otherwise." He claims that this was the design of the Founding Fathers.

Poppycock.

The income tax was not introduced in the United States until the Civil War, at which time it was quite clearly occasioned by the fiscal strains of, well, the Civil War and not by some sort of redistributive notion, though it was progressive in that only incomes above a minimum threshold were subject.

The first peace-time U.S. income tax was not introduced until 1894 and was, according to contemporaneous reports, intended to replace tax revenue that would be lost by tariff reductions.

The rich have done plenty to embarrass themselves this cycle and have much to fear from media-stoked populist fires lit under the government. There is enough to write about without resorting to a proprietary version of U.S. history.

Ross Levin

New York

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