Widening Gap Between Rich And Super-Rich Threatening American Dream

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Vol 30 Issue 15

Reedsburg Chamber Of Commerce:'Come Grow With Us'

REEDSBURG, OH—According to the Reedsburg Chamber of Commerce, the small Central Ohio town is a great place to relocate a family or business. "Reedsburg Is On The Grow!" said Chamber of Commerce President Fred Frisch, unveiling Reedsburg's new slogan. Frisch added that if you visit Reedsburg, "You'll Like What You See" as, with its low crime rate, clean water and great schools, the town is "A Perfect 10!" Frisch then broke down in tears, adding, "Please move here. The county really needs the tax revenue. We're desperate."

Single-Parent Families Get 'A' Rating ,From Drug Kingpin

ST. LOUIS—Area drug lord Darryl "Cootie-Fish" Jackson gave an "A" rating to single-parent families Monday. "A child raised by one parent is more likely to rebel," Jackson said. "For me, that's great for business." He also commended the nation's moral decay in recent years. "I applaud this decay, and I hope to fill this moral vacuum with drugs." The "A" award was presented at the corner of Third and Dempsey near Fat Sam's Liquors. Receiving "F" grades from Jackson were the St. Louis Police Department, Sesame Street and NBC, for the network's "The More You Know" public-service messages.

Claire Danes Fantasized About

VAN NUYS, CA—Actress Claire Danes, 17, was fantasized about Monday evening by Van Nuys plumber Doug Blodes, 38. "I have been impressed with Danes' acting skills and nubile body ever since first seeing her on My So-Called Life," Blodes said. "Unfortunately, she was only 14 at the time, and I was unable to bring myself to fantasize about her. Though she is still a year away from legal maturity, after seeing her in Romeo and Juliet recently, I could wait no longer." Blodes added he looks forward to the eventual video release of Romeo and Juliet, so that he can "enjoy the film" in the privacy of his own home.

Local Youth To Insert Coin

EVANSTON, IL—According to sources, Evanston resident Danny Vebber, 16, will insert a coin later this afternoon. Though not confirmed, it is believed the coin will be dropped into a Mortal Kombat II video game machine. "Danny's planned coin insertion does not surprise me," Northwestern University professor of sociology Herman Janks said. "The average 16-year-old boy spends the majority of his day inserting coins, whether it be into video games, soda machines or cigarette dispensers. And when these teens aren't inserting coins, they're usually busy looking for more coins to insert." According to Janks, by the time a boy like Vebber turns 17, he will have inserted more than 31,000 coins into some 4,800 slots.

Burundi Asks Neighbor To Keep It Down

BUJUMBURA, BURUNDI—Fed up with the constant noise, Burundi asked neighboring nation Zaire to "please keep it down" Tuesday. "We cannot get anything done around here with all that racket you're making," Burundi Prime Minister Antoine Nduwayo told Zaire. "Can you please hold your upheaval somewhere else, or at least do it more quietly? There are other countries that live around here, you know." Nduwayo added that Burundi's other neighbor, Rwanda, is "not much better."

Hubby Rick and I Just Got Vanity Plates!

Well, Jean's got some bad news for you: Lady is no more! Longtime readers of my column need not ask who Lady is, but for the benefit of you newcomers, Lady is my 1981 Plymouth Sundance coupe. For nearly a decade, Lady took me to work, carried my groceries and, most recently, accompanied me to RomantiCon '96 in Milwaukee.

Ro-Bots Are Trying To Kill Me

I'm often asked about the role of technology in our society, and whether it is ultimately beneficial or destructive. My reply: Technology is a scourge which must be abolished! I know this first-hand, for, as of this writing, a vast army of mechanical men surrounds my estate, ready to wipe me off the map!

Lucky Charms Phases Out Oat Pieces

MINNEAPOLIS—General Mills, maker of the popular breakfast cereal Lucky Charms, announced Tuesday that the morning favorite will soon become much more lucky with the addition of 16 new colorful marshmallow shapes, displacing the unpopular oat pieces that have hampered the cereal's appeal for decades.
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Widening Gap Between Rich And Super-Rich Threatening American Dream

GREENWICH, CT—Statistics say that America is more prosperous than ever, but you'd never know it from looking at the horse stables tucked behind the kidney-shaped pool in Fred and Mary Lipton's backyard on Shady Lane.

"We keep meaning to expand them," sighs Mary Lipton, 45, a member of the Greenwich Arts Society and mother of three. "But Freddie's firm has lost several of its corporate clients recently, and we're having a hard enough time making the payments on Crystal Waves [their Bridgehampton home]. When does 'trickle-down economics' trickle down to us?"

The Liptons are at the short end of an alarming trend in America: the ever-widening gap between the rich and super-rich. According to Treasury Department statistics, the wealthiest .01 percent of the American population holds 20 percent of the nation's wealth, or $270 trillion, an amount more than two times the holdings of the next richest .09 percent combined.

The current disparity is an alarming indicator of things to come, according to Martin Hubbell, professor of macroeconomics at Yale University. "A healthy capitalist economy should not concentrate so much of its wealth in the hands of so few," Hubbell said. "I mean, it should concentrate it in the hands of a few, but not so few."

The burgeoning gulf is strikingly apparent on streets like Shady Lane. At its north end, two permanently manned guardhouses mark the entrances to two palatial estates, each more than 5,000 acres, and each just one of many properties owned by its inhabitants.

Yet only a scant two miles away, on Shady Lane's dreaded "South Side," 25-room dwellings like the Liptons' huddle pathetically a few yards from the pavement, the desired effect of their décor often undermined, the nearest neighbor usually less than a furlong away. Unlike the super-rich, with their dozen or so properties across the globe, these owners are but one, two, or at most three catastrophic fires away from utter homelessness.

The close proximity of rich and super-rich is a source of frequent tension, according to Mary Lipton. "There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of [the super-rich] would be very happy to keep us in these slums," she said with a tinge of bitterness in her voice. "Either that, or they just don't want to know about us. It's like, 'Well, as long as I don't have to see them or go into their neighborhood, I can pretend that everything is fine, that everybody has a membership at Pebble Beach and Augusta like me.' It's really palpable. Their maids even act like they're as good as we are."

Indeed, Professor Hubbell detects signs of a budding class-warfare in this year's electoral results. "Ninety-six percent of those with $4 million or more in annual earnings voted for Bob Dole," he observed. "But among those whose income is between $1 and $4 million, the figure plummets to 90 percent. We are dealing with a politics of resentment, and it's going to get ugly."

The owner of one of Shady Lane's two tony northern properties sees no cause for panic in the statistics. "As we say in my industry, a rising tide lifts all ships," said Henry Humphries, a shipping magnate worth an estimated $750 million. "It just takes some time, that's all. Look, I made $45 million last year, and I bought all my executives BMWs. Would I have liked to have bought them Rolls Royces? Of course. But I have to acquire other companies with that money so I can continue to make money so that they can continue to make money. That's what makes the world go around."

But Minnie "Bubbles" DeLaroue, a wealthy widow and Humphries' neighbor across the creek, is quick to acknowledge the problem. The billionairess is founder of Reaching Out, a charity organization dedicated to improving the lives of the less fortunate. "We all need to give back to the rich," said DeLaroue. "My husband believed that what made America truly great was people reaching out to other people, lending them a hand or a houseboat or whatever it takes. In the end, having lots and lots of money isn't nearly as important as just having lots of money."

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