The establishment has ignored growing economic inequality to their peril, but a Trump victory could be a needed wakeup call.
I’m voting for change. But I’m playing the long game.
Short term issues can be important — petty overseas wars tend to freeze progress at home and tax policies can feed growth or failure — but I am keeping one eye further down the road. I believe the fundamental issue facing the United States is economic inequality. It controls everything else.
You know the numbers. Over the last three decades wage inequality in the United States increased substantially. CEOs in 1965 made 24 times more than the average worker, whereas in 2009 they made 185 times more. Some 21 percent of American children live in poverty. Households in the top 10 percent own 90 percent of the stock market. We are two different nations.
This is a long-term trend, untethered to Republicans or Democrats. It exists independent of Roe or trans rights, and while you can tease out racial and other factors (blacks remain the poorest of the poor, women fare worse economically than men) those are distractions, misdirection a magician uses so you’re looking the wrong way when he hides the card. The real action is the accumulation of more capital by increasingly fewer people, acquiring it from those below them. Stock ownership was at its peak in 2002 when 67 percent of Americans owned equities. The 2008 Great Recession reset that to where the typical household now owns essentially zero assets. Many who once owned now rent from those above them.
Until slavery ended, human beings were considered capital resources, just like stock today. Now we’re “human resources” so everything’s better. Bringing up race hides the real story of how long this has been going on and how deep a part of our way of life it is. The line between controlling someone with a whip and controlling someone through debt, dependence on government handouts (cough, COVID), and ever-lower wages gets finer and finer over time. The perks are still better on one side of the line than the other, but the fundamentals continue to narrow the gap.
We are on the threshold of a fully disengaged sub-society, one so rich it has its own schools and airplanes, lives hundreds of feet above us in apartment towers built like castles for defense, has its own health care system and private security, and its own tailored political and tax structure to allow it to hold onto the money. It has the ability to abandon the rest of us for self-sustaining yachts and private islands when someth