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America's big wealth gap: Is it good, bad, or irrelevant?

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"You'll make money according to what you've done in life," and according to your education and skills, says Paula Alibrandi, who works as an executive assistant in Boston. "That's only right."

Here's a look at the key arguments:

It's bad for the economy

Nick Hanauer isn't the person you'd expect to be vocal in the fight against inequality. He does venture capital deals as a founder of the firm Second Avenue Partners in Seattle. He's part of that top 1 percent, not one of the so-called 99 percenters involved in various "Occupy" protests in recent months.

But as he sees it, the widening of inequality has created an unhealthy economy, even for people like him.

"If you have a society where the people at the very tippy top accumulate all of the resources, you choke the economy to death," he says.

Mr. Hanauer says that investors and entrepreneurs like himself play an important role in job creation, but that the ability of the middle class to buy products is even more crucial.

"Steve Jobs didn't launch the iPhone in Bangladesh or the Congo. The iPhone is nothing without millions of people who can afford to buy it," says Hanauer, who has recently co-authored a political-economy book called "Gardens of Democracy."

Many economists, to greater or lesser extents, support Hanauer's general point: that a more balanced distribution of income would probably help economic growth.

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