In the endless campaign to determine who shall lead us we may lose sight of some glaring realities. In particular, we forget just how unequal our society has become and the reasons for it. Whether Clinton or Trump wins, the underlying basics of American life suck for the Rest of Us.
Well, Bill Moyers steps up to remind us of the problems and how we got here. He has history both within and outside government and his 80-plus years on the planet give him perspective that few can provide.
“We, the Plutocrats vs. We, the People.” Guess what? The Plutocrats prevail at the expense of “the People.” Moyers:
When I was a young man in Washington in the 1960s, most of the country’s growth accrued to the bottom 90 percent of households. From the end of World War II until the early 1970s, in fact, income grew at a slightly faster rate at the bottom and middle of American society than at the top. In 2009, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez explored decades of tax data and found that from 1950 through 1980 the average income of the bottom 90 percent of Americans had grown, from $17,719 to $30,941. That represented a 75 percent increase in 2008 dollars.
Since 1980, the economy has continued to grow impressively, but most of the benefits have migrated to the top. In these years, workers were more productive but received less of the wealth they were helping to create. In the late 1970s, the richest 1 percent received 9 percent of total income and held 19 percent of the nation’s wealth. The share of total income going to that 1 percent would then rise to more than 23 percent by 2007, while their share of total wealth would grow to 35 percent. And that was all before the economic meltdown of 2007-08.
But here’s the thing. Inequality grew rapidly not because of “globalization” or “automation.” Inequality is the direct consequence of deliberate policies enacted by Congress. Citing the work of Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, Moyers writes:
The winners bought off the gatekeepers, then gamed the system. And when the fix was in they turned our economy into a feast for the predators, “saddling Americans with greater debt, tearing new holes in the safety net and imposing broad financial risks on Americans as workers, investors and taxpayers.”
Regardless of who enters the Oval Office next January, the situation is unlikely to change. It’s the nature of capitalism and its compliant “gatekeepers.”