A poll commissioned by Bloomberg finds that the reality is beginning to sink in for Americans:
The widening gap between rich and poor is eroding faith in the American dream.
By almost two to one — 64 percent to 33 percent — Americans say the U.S. no longer offers everyone an equal chance to get ahead, according to a Bloomberg National Poll. And some say the government isn’t doing much to help.
“There’s a lot of policies that make it easier for the rich to get richer and the poor to go nowhere,” says Ryan Sekac, 26, a mechanical engineer in Westerly, Rhode Island.
and the poorer you are the more desperate you’re likely to feel:
The lack of faith is especially pronounced among those making less than $50,000 a year: By a 73 percent to 24 percent margin, they say the economy is unfair. Even 60 percent of those whose annual income is $100,000 or more bemoan the absence of a fair deal while 39 percent say everyone has an equal shot to advance.
There is a bit of what I presume is unintended humor in the article:
Before taking into account government policies, U.S. inequality isn’t much different than countries such as Denmark and Sweden, she says.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?
If there’s one, single thing this blog is about, it’s that policies have consequences, many of them unforeseen. Even if the consequences of a policy are unforeseen or unintended those consequences can be very damaging. I believe that we are now suffering the consequences of four decades or more of bad policies which work synergistically to boost the incomes of the top 10% of income earners, boosting the incomes of the top .1% of income earners most of all, while holding back the incomes of the rest of us. That Americans are only now realizing this just proves the truth of the remark attributed to Lincoln: you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
It’s not just one policy. That would be bad enough. It’s practically all of our policies and, especially, our domestic policies. Our trade policy has reduced the job growth in jobs that can be performed by average people. Our immigration policy has increased our population by at least 10% over what it otherwise might be and most of those new Americans are unskilled or semi-skilled. That has tended to put downwards pressure on the wages of ordinary people. The Internet (a creature of defense spending) has put similar pressure on the incomes of workers in the next tier up. Americans with college educations are no longer in competition for jobs with other Americans with college educations; they’re in competition for jobs with a world full of people with college educations, many of whom earn pennies on the dollar by comparison with wages here.
Agricultural policy intended to help poor farmers has largely gone to the richest farmers. Tax breaks, also called “tax expenditures” go overwhelmingly to the highest income earners. Intellectual property law makes it possible for the owners of patents, copyrights, etc. to live off rents and increases the prices of many goods in the United States but goes unenforced in most of the rest of the world, meaning that Americans are paying much, much more for the same goods than the Chinese, the Indians, and so on. Healthcare policy has resulted in physicians’ and other providers’ incomes rising at a multiple of the non-healthcare rate of inflation. In 1970 physicians earned approximately the median income. Now they earn a multiple of that.
Our policies with respect to the financial sector has resulted in the number of banks shrinking from 13,000 in 1960 to just a couple of thousand today. The bankers in the megabanks have grown very, very rich.
All of these things are the consequences of policy. They might have been unintended but they’re the consequences of policy just the same. None of this has happened all at once. It’s happened a percentage point or two at a time.
The most obvious way of correcting the present situation is change the policies. Sadly, there’s no way this situation can be remedied in the foreseeable future within the confines of the present political system: there’s a bipartisan consensus protecting each of these policies and the two major parties work very hard at preventing anyone who doesn’t subscribe to that consensus from joining the club. It doesn’t matter whether you elect the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate. They both subscribe to the same consensus of views on bad policies.
There are only a handful of ways this situation can play out and none of the most likely are very pretty.