Let’s face it: something is seriously wrong with the U.S. economy. I’m speaking not of the remnants of the recession, but of the structure of our society; that is, the middle class is rapidly shrinking, the lower class is growing and the gap between the wealthy and everyone else continues to increase at an alarming rate.
What the hell’s going on?
Well, I’m not an economist and I don’t pretend to understand the world’s financial markets or the Wall Street circus. Nonetheless, there are certain tenets of economic history and conditions that I can clearly grasp. For instance, America was built on cheap labor – namely, immigrants and slaves – and, by 1885, two financial classes were firmly established: there was a millionaire class (Rockefeller and Carnegie) and a second laboring class for everyone else. What middle class may have existed was more or less insignificant. This really didn’t change until organized labor started throwing its weight around. As the bumper sticker says: “Unions brought you the middle class.”
Today many unions are broken. It’s cheaper and viable for corporations to move production to Asia or to “right to work” states, as Boeing machinists have recently discovered. Then too, in the last 50 years, union membership has dropped from 35 percent of the workforce to 8 percent. Furthermore, on assembly lines it’s often cheaper to build robots than to hire workers. Many good-paying, middle-class jobs simply don’t exist anymore. There’s yet another situation I’d highlight. Corporate America pays few taxes, if any at all. In general, Boeing hasn’t paid any taxes for 10 years and, furthermore, owing to any army of lawyers who’ve manipulated the tax code, we’ve recent found out that the government apparently owes Boeing millions of dollars!
Similarly, wealthy individuals have access to lawyers and accountants who find loopholes in the tax laws and, consequently, a CEO who clears more than $20,000,000 a year often pays fewer taxes than a secretary. Of course, when you examine the top wealthiest families (the top 1 percent) you find many of them don’t work anyway. They can easily live off their inheritance. And just in case there isn’t enough inheritance to live in the style they’re accustomed to, they also marry into more money. Whereas the lower class and the struggling middle class often marry for love, it’s different in the upper class. The “noblesse” feels the importance of love is greatly exaggerated. They point out that a lot of people know how to love, but very few people are rich. And you can learn to love anyone if the money is right.
In this respect, the upper class tends to close in upon itself.
I’ll conclude with yet another statistic that’s received considerable press in the last few months. A mere 85 people (family autocrats) have and control more wealth than half the world’s population (3.5 billion people).
As they used to say, what’s wrong with this picture?