I’m in Portland’s Monument Square with my special tape measure, the one where 1 foot = $100,000. I draw an X on the bricks, from which I mark off 1-foot/$100,000 increments.

Now, I invite you to stand on the line that best fits your personal finances: If you have $100,000 in assets, you stand on the 1-foot line; $200,000, on the 2-foot line, and so on. If you have $1 million, you’re 10 feet from the X; $2 million, 20 feet, et cetera.

Have $1 billion? You’re down at the Portland Transportation Center. If, like Google’s Larry Page, you have $40 billion, you’re in Newbury, Massachusetts. The Walton heirs or the Koch brothers, each family worth something like $100 billion, are in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

And if it’s true that the world already has a trillionaire, or will have soon, as Bill Gates reputedly is on track to be, that individual’s place is in Beaumont, Texas, or, depending on personal preferences, Havana, Cuba. (It’s a big honkin’ tape measure.)

This kind of wealth gap, the kind that takes a three-hour ride in a Gulfstream G650 to traverse, should not exist in a country that boasts of being the Land of Opportunity. Free-market theory decrees that fair competition ought to keep the ends of my imaginary line at least within the Portland city limits, if not within sight of each other. No, this kind of wealth disparity is to the economy what a cancerous tumor is to its host: a ravenous agglomeration of self-interest that starves the body to feed itself, and should be dealt with accordingly.

Keith Vallencourt