Summary: The rise of inequality is one of the greatest challenges of our time. A new report provides even more documentation about the gravity of the threat. Will this spark action by America’s people? Or are the 1% right — that they are best fit to rule and that we are sheep?
It all starts with rising inequality
Inequality is one of the greatest issues of our time, as for the fifth decade the 1% continues to skim off most of America’s increased productivity. The Urban Institute has published yet another report documenting it: Nine Charts about Wealth Inequality in America. It is well worth reading, loaded with powerful information. Here is one of its most interesting graphics — an interactive graphic showing the wealth held by each percentile of Americans (see the report for details).
Much of what we love about America was true only for a moment. A large middle class was created from public policy changes made during the fires of the Great Depression, WWII, and the Cold War. Most of us still see that image as America. Each day it becomes less true.
After 1970 the Cold War cooled. Social cohesion and popular enthusiasm were no longer important, so our ruling elites began the long process of returning America to its Gilded Age base state. Unions were crushed, antitrust enforcement reduced (allowing massive concentration of corporate power), profit margins skyrocketed, borders opened (more workers, lower wages), and waves of tax cuts for the rich.
The resulting slow accumulation of a larger share of America’s income and wealth by the 1% — and even more by the 0.1% — is reshaping this nation. Falling social mobility accelerates the process.
Power follows the money. Now the 1% use their increased power to change US political and corporate structures to further increase their income and wealth. The Trump Administration shows this policy at work. Their replacement for ObamaCare meant benefit cuts for the working poor and tax cuts for the rich. Their tax proposal means benefit cuts for the poor, more taxes for some of the middle class, and tax cuts for corporations and the rich. Their labor policy shifts power from unions to corporations.
As the middle class fades away, the institutions it supported re-orient towards the 1% like flowers following the sun. Charities and non-profits led by community leaders sell themselves to the 1%. Media, think-tanks, and political parties turn from seeking mass memberships to rich patrons.
“Pouring water on a wet rock doesn’t make it wetter.’
The rise of inequality was controversial when I first wrote about it in 2008. Nine years later it has become obvious, so conservatives have gone to their pitifully weak fallback position: it’s right and proper — perhaps even good — that the 1% skim off most of America’s growth. This should not surprise us.
The sad news is that Americans whine about this but do not ask. This encourages the 1% to continue their efforts to take control of the Republic. Our sheep-like behavior tells them that they are best fit to rule. We’re not proving them wrong.
For More Information
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about increasing income inequality and falling social mobility, especially these…
- Why Americans should love Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – we live there,
- When marriage disappears: rising inequality as the threat to the family.
- See America’s income inequality grow during 1979-2011, a driver of Campaign 2016.
- Warning: the income gap between races is widening in America.
- Liz Bennett couldn’t marry Darcy. Nor can your daughter.