While one may assume that Kathleen Parker’s New Year’s Day op-ed column, “The era of envy and debt,” was a call to good will, one must wonder what she meant by envy. Was she referring to the recent criticism from Pope Francis, who decried the high level of income inequality and the worship of wealth? Was she referring to those who point out the economic perils of income inequality? Or was she referring to those of us who have called for increasing taxes on the very wealthy? These are the usual themes of plutocrats. They dismiss calls for more income equality and higher taxes on the wealthy as nothing more than class envy.

In the 1980s, the United States embarked on a social experiment premised on the notion that cutting taxes for the wealthy would stimulate economic growth sufficient to offset the revenue lost from those lower taxes. The result has been a neglected infrastructure, a frayed social safety net and a huge increase in the national debt. Opportunities to achieve the American Dream have shrunk. Any reasonable correction would include raising taxes on those who benefited from those lower taxes: i.e., the wealthy. But, for right-wingers, that is dismissed as class envy.

John Heath, Annandale

I find it appalling that Kathleen Parker would characterize objections to gross economic inequality in this country as a manifestation of “envy.” It isn’t envious to want a decent job at a living wage or to be able to afford medical care for your family and a decent education for your children. The problem is not an absence of community standards, the people one sees at malls or distractions such as Miley Cyrus, as Ms. Parker suggested. The problem is an insufficient governmental response to the economic collapse caused by those Ms. Parker imagines the rest of us envy. 

Michael Curry, Austin

According to Kathleen Parker, “Envy is the core emotion driving the current debate about income inequality.” I respectfully disagree.

Unless Ms. Parker can convince me that ever- increasing disparity in income is good for our country, I am left to believe the economists who insist it is not. To reduce the argument of those lamenting the escalating inequality to envy strikes me as puerile. I can think of many other feelings that drive my concern: grief, certainly, for an American Dream that we once thought invincible; fear that we will do lasting damage to our democracy and our economy if the trend continues; anger toward those who have the power but not the courage to check the trend; and anxiety that the continuing trend might lead to social unrest.  

In one recent ranking of income inequality, the United States ranked below every other developed country — below Nigeria, in fact. It’s time that we took this inconvenient truth more seriously.    

Linda Parker, Troy, Va.