Despite the relative prosperity of the past few years and the steady growth of our economy since the great recession, income inequality hasn’t gotten better. Instead, it’s gotten worse.
But almost everyone is doing pretty well. Most people have smart phones, for example, an item that was once considered a luxury. Most people have computers and TVs. Yes, there’s still poverty in America, but it’s generally not as bad as it was in eras past. However, for those in poverty, it’s no better than it was 30 or 40 or 50 years ago.
Some folks say, “Even the poor have iPhones nowadays, so they’re clearly better off than they were 20 years ago.” But smart phones aren’t a luxury any longer. They’re necessary in our 24/7 connected world. Only the comfortable/wealthy and the elderly/retired can afford not to have such devices.
But if people can afford to eat and buy smart phones, what’s the big deal? Why does it matter if the rich get even richer? So what that the recent tax cuts mainly benefit the wealthy and large corporations? We’re still giving some money back to the lower and middle classes, right?
Yes. We’re giving at least a little money to almost everyone (but the vast majority to the rich) and we’re doing that by taking that money from our children and grandchildren, running up our debt to unsustainable levels. In addition, we’re spending more than we have in the past, which will only increase the speed at which that debt becomes a major problem.
Further, we’re doing this in an age when everyone can learn this. In the past, information took a while to get across the country, to trickle down to the masses. Now, because everyone is connected, information is almost instantaneously transmitted across the populace.
So we can all spot the inequality we used to be much less aware of. The spin that this was a middle class tax cut, for example, died almost immediately because the truth was able to disperse across social media just as fast as the lies.
The distrust of government, building for some time, increases with the transfer of wealth from our future selves to our current oligarchs. Take from everybody tomorrow to give more to the wealthy today!
The swamp gets swampier, and the ability to distract from that truth gets harder. The game continues to be rigged and we’re supposed to be too stupid to see it. For a long time, that seemed to be true. It wasn’t, of course. But the gap between lies and truth was larger back then.
So the attempt to sell medicinal spirits and get out of Dodge before anyone notices it’s just sugar water doesn’t work the way it did in the past. We know now that when our politicians tell us something is great for us, we need to look beyond their words to find the truth. And it’s a lot easier to search for that truth now than it used to be.
We ignore the swirl of the magician’s wand. You can’t fool us forever. It doesn’t matter if you tell us we’re going to be so much better off because we notice the deception. “Here’s a peanut for you while I take 7 chocolate cakes for me.” Even monkeys scream in outrage when their fellow creatures are rewarded more than they are. The outrage against unfairness is wired into us.
So inequality is a bigger problem today than it was yesterday because we’re more aware of it. The oligarchs can no longer hide what they’re doing to enrich themselves at our expense.