Is 2015 going to be the year of class?
It certainly seems so, to judge by the widening gap between the wage and profit shares (the wage share in blue on the right scale of the chart above, the profit share in red on the left scale) and the worries recently expressed by politicians, economists, and journalists.
There is, of course, Mitt Romney on income inequality and the “scourge of poverty” (because Republicans have nowhere else to go, having been boxed in by Barack Obama on most other issues, but they’re going to have a hard time going against their pro-business agenda, especially with Romney as the standard-bearer).
And Obama himself, who apparently is going to propose closing the multibillion-dollar tax loopholes used by the wealthiest Americans, imposing a fee on big financial firms, and then using the revenue to benefit the middle-class (but he’s unlikely to get much bipartisan support in Congress for any kind of serious moves on those issues).
Plus we have the spectacle of Larry Summers (together with Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls) openly expressing his concern for the future of democracy if capitalism cannot deliver broad-based prosperity, which may give rise to “political alienation, a loss of social trust, and increasing conflict across the lines of race, class, and ethnicity.”
But, as Mike Whitney [ht: ja] reminds us, the problem of class war is not a recent phenomenon: the most recent chapter started in the mid-1970s, when “everything started going down the plughole.” Once wages became detached from productivity,
the rich progressively got richer. They used their wealth to reduce taxes on capital, roll back critical regulations, break up the unions, install their own lapdog politicians, push through trade agreements that pitted US workers against low-paid labor in the developing world, and induce their shady Central Bank buddies to keep interest rates locked below the rate of inflation so they could cream hefty profits off gigantic asset bubbles. Now, 40 years later, they own the whole shooting match, lock, stock and barrel. And it’s all because management decided to take the lion’s share of productivity gains which threw the whole system off-kilter undermining the basic pillars of democratic government.
That’s where we stand today, in the midst of a class war. And, as everyone now acknowledges, only one side—a tiny minority at the top—is winning.