Looking at Income Inequality Updated: Friday, May 16, 2014 KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A surprise best-selling French author has stoked the fires of class warfare in the United States with the recent publication of his book "Capital in the 21st Century."Tonight, in Tom's Corner, our Tom Van Howe says whether the book is right or wrong is irrelevant right now; its publication has people talking.=====================The author's name is Thomas Piketty. And his premise is this: unless governments start using heavy taxes to break up large concentrations of wealth, our economy and the world's economy will become increasingly unbalanced, with only a few people inheriting massive fortunes.And he says the only way to penetrate that socio-economic class would be to marry into it--because good old-fashioned hard work won't get you there.The book has been pretty much kicked to the dirt by conservatives and hailed by liberals. I'm stuck in the middle because I struggled with economics in college.But I'm not sure you need a dollars-and-sense degree to get a sense that things aren't going well--that somehow the game is rigged; that the fix is in.Take a look. The pay of the typical American worker peaked in 1978 and has been dropping ever since.Since 2000, the wages of the median male worker across all age brackets has dropped 10 percent after inflation.Compare that to what has happened to CEO's over that same period of time. According to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, until about 1980, CEO's were paid, on average, 30 times what their typical worker was earning.Since then, CEO pay has skyrocketed to roughly 300 times the pay of a typical worker.Its good to be on top--not so good for those who are not.And I can hear you say, 'Well, let's not pick on the job creators.'But I can't find a single economist to say they're creating that many jobs.What those CEO's are doing instead is taking their millions and investing it. Maybe hoarding it is a better word.Maybe--just maybe--if they increased the pay of their workers, those same workers would have more money in their pockets to buy more of the product they're making.Kind of like Henry Ford, who doubled the pay of his workers to five dollars a day, so they'd be able to afford their own cars.That would seem to be a good thing for the economy.If a company can sell more of what is has to sell, it has reason to expand and hire more people. So customers are really the job creators.Absent that, however, what do we do to level the paying field?The french economist Piketty says we ought to start by taxing the hell out of the wealthy and then redistribute all that money to balance the scales.But--to be real--that doesn't seem likely.After all, our lawmakers, who rely on the monied classes for their political survival, aren't going to start gnawing on the hands that feed them. Can't see that happening next week.How about the return of labor unions? To sit down and negotiate wages and benefits.Well, unions are out of vogue right now, and while we do have the right to collectively bargain in this country, why don't you try organizing a union chapter where you work and see where that gets you.The best idea I've heard so far is in a bill coming up for consideration in California.It called Senate Bill 1372, and would set corporate tax rates according to the ratio of CEO pay to that of a typical worker.The higher the ratio, the higher the tax. The lower the ratio the lower the tax.All of a sudden, board members at 'Corporation A,' who set CEO pay, would have to start answering to stock holders who'd suddenly have a different set of questions.I don't know if the Frenchman's book about capitalism is on target or not, but it has, indeed, set people to talking.The elephant has left the building and we're talking about class warfare in this country as if it were a real thing.And that's good--because it is.In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.