There are still some who believe we’re all in this together. But we’re not, not by a long shot.
When the economy is organized so that the surplus is pumped out of one group (whose wages are stagnant), appropriated by another group (the tiny group of capitalists who sit on corporate boards of directors), and then distributed to still another group (who do all that is necessary to make sure the surplus continues to flow), and the top 1 percent get to spend the expanding surplus it receives on all manner of luxury goods and services—well, you get what can only be described as the Second Gilded Age.
Today, ever greater resources are being invested in winning market share at the very top of the pyramid, sometimes at the cost of diminished service for the rest of the public. While middle-class incomes are stagnating, the period since the end of the Great Recession has been a boom time for the very rich and the businesses that cater to them. . .
While choices for the rich are expanding, the opposite is happening for poorer Americans, according to new research by Xavier Jaravel, a graduate student in economics at Harvard. One explanation, he said, is that there is more innovation among goods aimed at the wealthy, whether it is fancy cookware, natural cheeses or single malt Scotch. Downscale items like canned meat or tobacco see less innovation. . .
Even though this kind of pampering might be good for business, and delight those on the right side of the velvet rope, the gap between the privileged and the rest may ultimately leave everyone feeling uneasy, said Barry J. Nalebuff, a professor of management at Yale.
“If I’m in the back of the plane, I want to hiss at the people in first class,” said Mr. Nalebuff, who has advised many Fortune 100 companies. “If I’m up front, I cringe as people walk by.”
I suppose one can argue we’re all sailing on the same ship—but the ship is clearly organized into separate classes, and the doors between them are kept firmly locked.
Even as the ship itself sinks.