If conservatives want to ignore his warnings about inequality, we’re not the only ones who’ll suffer. They will too
Thursday, Apr 24, 2014
For most Americans, reports of our yawning, fast-expanding wealth gap only confirm what we’ve already seen and experienced in our own lives. If your job or industry has evaporated due to technological change or automation, if you’ve watched your factory position get shipped oversees (oftentimes offered, in one final bit of cruel irony, to train your foreign replacements first), if you’ve graduated from college or grad school in the past decade, only to find a nation with far too many applicants and far too few positions — reports on the existence of two Americas, one for the “haves” and one for the “have-nots” will not surprise you.
We are living in the Age of Post-Exceptional America.
An unavoidable fact of life in modern America, our growing inequality of income and wealth has eroded this nation’s middle class and its economy, like a cavity or a tumor. Crucially, this disruptive inequality continues to expand, as confirmed by an increasingly large body of research from sources as varied as an obscure French economist (turned bestselling author) to the front page of the New York Times.
In the Times, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy report on new data from the “Luxembourg Income Study Database,” which shows that America’s middle class — long the wealthiest in the world — has been surpassed by the middle classes of much of Western Europe and Canada. Basically, they explain, while Wall Street booms and corporate profits soar, the wealth of average Americans is stagnant or fading. As Leonhardt and Quealy put it,
The findings are striking because the most commonly cited economic statistics — such as per capita gross domestic product — continue to show that the United States has maintained its lead as the world’s richest large country. But those numbers are averages, which do not capture the distribution of income. With a big share of recent income gains in this country flowing to a relatively small slice of high-earning households, most Americans are not keeping pace with their counterparts around the world.
The authors are careful to note that their research only goes to 2010, but there’s no reason to think that these trends haven’t continued in the years since — or that they won’t continue in the future.