Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The New Gilded Age

Tim Rutten provides yet more data on the way in which America in the Age of Reagan (1981-) has involved the enrichment of already-wealthy, and the stagnation or worse of the middle classes and the poor:
All but unnoticed, America has slipped into a new Gilded Age, with all the inequalities that historical appellation implies. From the late 1940s through 1978, the U.S. economy excelled at distributing opportunities. According to Census Bureau figures, median family income increased by more than 100% during that period. But it has grown by less than 25% in the 30 years since. It's doubtful that even that anemic increase would have occurred if millions of women had not entered the workforce during those decades.

The census' inflation-adjusted numbers show that a median American family made $61,000 in 2000 and, despite the economic expansion through most of the Bush administration, just $60,500 in 2007. That was the first time in history that the U.S. economy expanded without increasing ordinary families' standard of living.

What did increase was the share of household wealth in the meticulously manicured hands of people like Spelling. Recent data suggest that the richest 1% of U.S. households -- those with annual incomes of $348,000 or better -- now control 34.3% of the nation's net worth, while the bottom 40% of households dispose of just 0.2% of America's wealth.
The only thing I would add to this is that this rising disparity of income and wealth is not just a moral issue of economic fairness, it also fundamentally impacts the substantive nature of political equality, given that money buys political access and power. As such, the growing disparity in wealth fundamentally undermines democratic principles of political equality, and threaten to undermine the political integrity of the Republic as such.

1 comment:

Noah Flower said...

Congress' approval rating dipped to just nine percent this month, the first time it has ever dropped into single digits. It hasn't cleared 15% this entire year. Methinks the two are connected.