When Americans express indifference about the problem of unequal incomes, it’s usually because they see the United States as a land of boundless opportunity. Sure, you’ll hear it said, our country has pretty big income disparities compared with Western Europe. And sure, those disparities have been widening in recent decades. But stark economic inequality is the price we pay for living in a dynamic economy with avenues to advancement that the class-bound Old World can only dream about.
Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern AmericaBy Richard White (W.W. Norton, 660 pp., $35) I. The scene is iconic, known to many Americans even casually acquainted with their history. Locomotives of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads come engine grate to engine grate, separated by a mere railroad tie, at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.
Andrew W. Mellon “planned, schemed, contrived and devised a comprehensive scheme and plan of tax evasions and tax avoidance while he held the office of the Secretary of the Treasury of the US.” That was the charge of the Treasury Department when Mellon left. Treasury officials claimed that Mellon defrauded the government of about $2 million in taxes owed by him for 1931, his final year as Secretary. Mellon answered simply that he had computed his own return.