Experts have been sparring for decades over the impact of tax rates on the economy, an unresolved debate that raged a little louder after President Obama argued in a speech Wednesday in Ohio that the tax cuts approved under President George W. Bush should be allowed to expire for the top 2% of income earners while being extended for the middle class. Republicans firmly oppose that idea, proposing instead to make all of the Bush cuts permanent. We're wondering if they've checked in with the CIA on that.
According to the CIA's World Factbook, an online repository of information on the world's nations, the United States ranks 42nd on an index of income inequality. This is one of those lists you don't want to be at or near the top of: A high score means a wide gap between the haves and have-nots. The United States has a more even distribution of wealth than such countries as South Africa, Hong Kong and Brazil, but it's more unequal than Russia, Venezuela and Kenya, among 92 other countries that rank lower than we do. Obviously, the middle class has a far higher average income in the U.S. and a greater quality of life than in many of the countries that rank better, but regardless of how high or low the income floor is, big gaps in wealth can have pernicious effects on a society, encouraging corruption, disrespect for the rule of law, health problems and other woes.