DN editorial: Gap between rich and rest of us grows wider

3 x 2 money being counted
A money counter counts 100 U.S dollar banknotes in a bank in Bern August 15, 2011.

THE GROWING inequality of both income and wealth is more of a threat to this country than ISIS ever could be and ought to be a major issue in the presidential campaign. Not only have ordinary Americans' wages stayed stagnant for decades, the wealth gap also is at the widest it's been since the Gilded Age a century ago, when President Theodore Roosevelt led the fight for an estate tax to keep wealth - and therefore power - from becoming even more concentrated in a few people.

Many forces at work have increased inequality, mostly related to tax policy; one Congressional Research Service report found that changes in capital gains and dividends was a major contributor to the increase in the overall income inequality. Another contributor: a series of reductions of the estate tax, which began in 1981. Now most of the nation's wealth - things such as homes, cars, savings and investments, the assets that allow one generation to help the next climb higher on the economic ladder - is controlled by a relative few: The top 0.1 percent owns as much as the lower 90 percent put together.

Land of opportunity? Hardly. The chances that a child of low-income parents, no matter how talented or hardworking, can make it even into the struggling middle class are slim.

(By the way, whites in America have 10 times the wealth of African Americans, and that is to a great extent because federal government programs that built the great American middle class were systematically denied to African Americans. For example, Social Security originally didn't cover the occupations that were then open to black people, such as farm and domestic work. Black veterans were often kept from taking full advantage of the GI Bill of Rights. Black vets didn't get the housing loans to which they were entitled, and there was no room for black veterans in whites-only colleges.)

One of the biggest howlers Donald Trump tells us - and perhaps himself - is that he is a self-made man. With only a "small loan" from his father, he claims, he built a company worth billions through hard work and savvy. The "small loan" he admits to is $1 million, but fact-checkers say Trump probably received upward of $14 million from Daddy. This is not the sort of help ordinary American parents can give their kids.

And Trump's tax proposals would benefit whom? Why, people like Trump's kids, of course. Consider the aforementioned estate tax. Only the richest Americans pay the tax, and they pay it only on inherited wealth over $10.9 million a couple.

Hillary Clinton wants to raise the estate tax from 40 percent to 65 percent on the amount over $1 billion per couple of their inheritance. Trump, by contrast, wants to eliminate it entirely. That's bad for democracy because without something like an estate tax, the gap between rich and poor will continue to grow unchecked.

Like President Obama, we find it hard to believe that Trump, whose policies are designed to make the rich even richer, now is viewed by some to be a "champion of working people."

As he so eloquently put it: "C'mon. C'mon, man!"

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