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Income inequality growing, but so is public consciousness, says author who gave away his fortune

Mike Desmond

Income inequality in America is growing while public consciousness of the issue is also growing. That was  the message a man who gave away his wealth brought to a local group Tuesday night.

Chuck Collins has moved in wealth, from school at one of the great prep schools, Cranbrook, outside of Detroit, to co-author of a book with Bill Gates Sr. Today, he is co-director of the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies from his home in Boston, MA and wrote the book Born on Third Base, about his life and what to do about inequality.

Tuesday evening, he spoke to the Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide Studies at the Arthur O. Eve Educational Opportunity Center. He talked about the inequality he sees in his hometown - and the similarities to Buffalo.

"It is a city with extreme inequality and, in fact, now we're seeing global wealth coming and buying up luxury housing and kind of almost pushing up the cost of housing for everyone else," Collins said. "So we're in a global housing market that is disrupting the entire community and I've been part of an effort there to tax very high-end luxury real estate transactions and generate money for affordable housing."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Overall, Collins said he has had a good life, starting on third base as a great-grandson of meat mogul Oscar Mayer.

"When I was 26, I gave the wealth I had to a couple of foundations," Collins said. "I already had paid for college, so I had a debt-free college education, which is a pretty good head start these days, and I had all kinds of other advantages, so I thought it was time to pass the gift along."

Collins said that issue of college tuition and costs has become a topic that draws younger people into involvement in issues.

In California, there is a push to install a tax on inherited wealth to help pay for returning to free tuition in the state's public higher education system, opening higher education to people who cannot afford it now.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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