Summit Daily letters: Income inequality at heart of Summit County’s problems |

Summit Daily letters: Income inequality at heart of Summit County’s problems

Re: Aug. 19 column from Ben Trollinger, “Is Summit County becoming a victim of its own success?”

I just read your editorial on our being crime victims. You make some very good points about how the increasing popularity of Summit County will lead to rises in many social problems.

I would like to draw your attention to a book I just read that provides overwhelming evidence about how much worse this situation will become. And, if you understood its contents, you could connect the dots on many of the issues that your paper presents every day.

The book is “The Spirit Level,” written by two British epidemiologists, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. The book was originally published in 2009, with a paperback version in 2010 that includes additional analysis.

In short, the book assembles the results of over 200 peer-reviewed published research papers that document that all social diseases — obesity, suicide, depression, violent crime, anger, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, education failures, life expectancy, some cancers, infant mortality and teenage pregnancies — are directly and causally linked to levels of income inequality in a developed nation. The research findings cover 30 to 50 developed nations and are equally valid and verified for the 50 states of America. More astonishing, the incidence of these diseases occurs among people of ALL income levels: the greater the level of income inequality in a society, the more the people suffer at all income levels.

Yes, I know, this all sounds like such an extraordinary claim that it can’t possible be true. But if you are willing to trust scientists and scientific methods, the book provides overwhelming evidence to support its claims. I can not understand why it has not received more public attention.

So not only will levels of social problems increase as more people come to Summit County, but the rate of social problems per capita will increase — for those already here and for those who will come. This county is a classic example of income inequality. The police, by the way, are not immune — they, too, are subject to the same diseases, including anger and violence.

The book discusses in depth many ways to reduce income inequality, and, until/unless this is done, virtually all efforts to thwart the occurrence of individual diseases — your paper has focused on suicide as one — will be pretty much futile and ineffective. In many states, the governments are now spending more on prisons each year than they are on education.

I know you have a very limited amount of time to read or think, but you can check out the authors’ Web site, to delve into this further, if you don’t read the book. Understanding what’s going on in this context can help you to understand, for example, why so many of the letters to the editor, and editorials, reflect and contain anger (not to mention displays of functional illiteracy).

Alton Penz


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