By Elizabeth Ann Thompson

We need to close the gap between the rich and the poor. That disturbing chasm is widening, as two recent surveys demonstrate.

The first, a survey of 700 academics and executives meeting this week in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, found that "income inequality" was the most likely threat to the world economy.

There is a simple reason for that. If there are not enough good-paying jobs, people don't have money to spend. And if they don't have money to spend, companies can't sell as many products, so companies lay more people off. This is a classic vicious cycle.

The second report is a "State of the Union" from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. It discovered that "the country's economy and labor market remain in deep disrepair." It noted that long-term unemployment is at an all-time high since 2000. It added that full recovery isn't coming any time soon if we continue along the current path.

These studies show that income and wealth disparities are rising to dangerous levels. They are also disproportionately impacting African-Americans and Latinos.

The Stanford study underscores the need for a second War on Poverty. It recommends a "no-holds-barred commitment" to delivering good jobs to all those who seek them.

The problem of inequality has been studied to death by now. What is lacking is action by government to create jobs and reduce the gap between the superwealthy and the rest of us.

The time for this action is now.

Elizabeth Ann Thompson is a freelance writer in Oakland, Calif. She can be reached at

Copyright Elizabeth Ann Thompson.

Photo: arindambanerjee /


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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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