Let’s Not Kid Ourselves We Are in a New Gilded Age

As we’ve noted over and over again inequality is growing and it is a very bad thing, not just for those screwed over folks who are living the old Woody Allen joke “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.”

Mike Konczal has been go-to on these issues at the Next New Deal blog. The numbers are in and The 1 Percent Took Home the Largest Share of Income Since 1928 Last Year.

In 1928 19.6% of all income went to the top 1%. In 2012 it was an alarmingly similar 19.34%, and growing.

This is something we all have to internalize and talk about and take pains to explain to everyone who will listen. In 1928 this hoard of income so concentrated at the top presaged the Great Depression and then in response to it FDR and The Great Expansion – 30 years of policies that expanded the middle class, flattened the gap between the top and the bottom and grew the strongest economy in world history.

Then starting with Carter, and greatly exacerbated by Reagan and the conservative economic unraveling of the policies that created the Great Expansion came The Great Dismantling. Tax cutting, deregulation, deindustrialization, anti-unionism, offshoring, outsourcing, free immigration, free trade and monetary policies that favored international business interests at the expense of domestic industry. In short, for 30 years we did almost everything right to bolster manufacturing, positive trade and a vibrant middle class, and then for 30 years we did almost everything we could to dismantle those policies. And we now live with the repercussions of that.

History dictates that a new generation of activists will pull us back leftward to correct the rightward move. And guess what? Peter Beinart says “here it comes.” A new generation is coming up that is not beholden to Reagan’s version of anti-government trickle down 1 percentism or Clinton’s version of triangulating that anti-government sentiment into further deregulation and market solutions.

 Millennials are more willing than their elders to challenge cherished American myths about capitalism and class. According to a 2011 Pew study, Americans under 30 are the only segment of the population to describe themselves as “have nots” rather than “haves.” They are far more likely than older Americans to say that business enjoys more control over their lives than government.  And unlike older Americans, who favor capitalism over socialism by roughly 25 points, Millennials, narrowly, favor socialism.

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