Is it just me or is everything that is happening right now in the United States an indication that we’re in the midst of a Second Gilded Age?
Like one billionaire’s cash purchase of a major newspaper, which is greeted as a sign of his vision rather than a rich person’s trophy, an alternative to “cars, yachts and private jets.” (Of course, German unions have a much better sense of what is to come for the Washington Post.)
Or the suggestion that the economic crisis of Detroit can be fixed by directing immigrant workers to move there—and only there. And, on top of that, it’s called an experiment in the free market?!
Immigration is an economic development policy that is currently largely ignored. A city like Detroit could be a symbol and demonstration project to show other cities the huge potential for this. If this works, it will mean more political demand for immigrants and ultimately raising our overall immigration levels, which is an important goal in and of itself. A regional visas should be created that let’s [sic] cities experiment and choose their own path in this way. It’s the only free market plan out there with any chance of making a serious impact in Detroit, and it’s consistent with America’s spirit of federalism. And unlike just about every other plan you see, like bailouts or tax cuts, this has the advantage that it doesn’t require other people’s money.
Or the fact that only now is attention being paid to a Bank of England study that showed that quantitative easing has disproportionately benefited those who are already well off.
Or, finally, that airlines are sparing no expense these days to upgrade the experience of first-class and business-class travelers and reducing everyone else to, well, cattle class.
The upgrading of business and the downgrading of coach present a fairly faithful mirror of what’s happening in the larger economy: the disappearance of the middle class. As University of California-Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez has documented, between 2009 and 2011, the incomes of the wealthiest 1 percent of American families grew by 11.2 percent while those of the remaining 99 percent shrunk by 0.4 percent. Median household income has declined every year since 2008. Profits, meanwhile, have risen to their highest share of the nation’s economy since World War II, while wages have sunk to their lowest share. In an economy such as this, the growing markets are the rich and corporations, which have more money to spend on luxury travel, and the downwardly mobile everyone else, whose travel options are increasingly confined to discount outfits like Spirit and the increasingly hellacious coach sections of other airlines.
Ah, only in America!