Friday, December 01, 2017

Do You Feel Welcome In The New Gilded Age?


If you follow Austin Frerick, the Blue America-endorsed candidate for Iowa's 3rd congressional district on Twitter-- and you should: @AustinFrerick-- you are probably already familiar of the term Second Gilded Age or New Gilded Age. This morning Austin, a former Treasury Department economist, told me that "The 1st Gilded Age lasted from the 1870s to about 1900. I believe that we are living in the 2nd Gilded Age. It started with President Reagan and I'm running to end it with President Trump." He sent me this post from The Guardian and I don't think it was because he expected me to buy the golden Ferrari pictured on the page. "Not since the time of the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts at the turn of the 20th century was so much owned by so few" is the subtitle by Rupert Neate, The Guardian's "wealth correspondent." He wrote that "billionaires increased their combined global wealth by almost a fifth last year to a record $6 trillion-- more than twice the GDP of the UK. There are now 1,542 dollar billionaires across the world, after 145 multi-millionaires saw their wealth tick over into nine-zero fortunes last year, according to the UBS / PwC Billionaires report."
Josef Stadler, the lead author of the report and UBS’s head of global ultra high net worth, said his billionaire clients were concerned that growing inequality between rich and poor could lead to a “strike back.”

“We’re at an inflection point,” Stadler said. “Wealth concentration is as high as in 1905, this is something billionaires are concerned about. The problem is the power of interest on interest-- that makes big money bigger and, the question is to what extent is that sustainable and at what point will society intervene and strike back?”

Stadler added: “We are now two years into the peak of the second Gilded Age.”

He said the “$1 billion question” was how society would react to the concentration of so much money in the hands of so few.

Anger at so-called robber barron families who built up vast fortunes from monopolies in US rail, oil, steel and banking in the late 19th century, an era of rapid industrialisation and growing inequality in America that became known as the Gilded Age, led to President Roosevelt breaking up companies and trusts and increasing taxes on the wealthy in the early 1900s.

“Will there be similarities in the way society reacts to this gilded age?,” Stadler asked. “Will the second age end or will it proceed?”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently said western governments should force the top 1% of earners to pay more more tax to try to reduce dangerous levels of inequality.

I asked several of the candidates Blue America has endorsed about the issues raised in this Guardian article. We should only be so lucky to wind up with Derrick Crowe in Congress. He's running for the open Austin-San Antonio district (TX-21) seat. The DCCC is pushing some wealthy nothing for the seat. Crowe, anything but "a nothing," would be part of a game changing proposition, along with Frerick, Randy Bryce, Kaniela Ing and the others you'll find by clicking on the thermometer just below, on the right. He told me today that "Not only are we in a moment where the rich are accruing incredible benefits and advantages over the working class in politics-- we're also facing major, simultaneous turning points in our national life that will have major ramifications for income inequality. The automation and AI revolution is about to put severe downward pressure on wages and put a very large percentage of people out of work--30 percent of Americans in the next 13 years, by some estimates. That crisis will hit us right about the time that we blow the carbon budget for staying under 2-degree global warming. If we don't wrestle control of policy-making away from the billionaire class right now, inequality and unemployment will skyrocket right as climate change begins to spin completely out of control.

Goal Thermometer"The correct policy choices to deal with this crisis are staring us right in the face: urgent climate change action that includes very deep investments in renewable energy, efficiency, and infrastructure, College for All to make sure people can get the higher education and mid-career retraining needed to adapt, and portable benefits like Medicare for All. We should also start looking into the options for universal basic income, because the simple fact is that these changes could hit us so hard and so fast that the term 'Gilded Age' doesn't even begin to cover the scope of the crisis."

"The American Dream was becoming distant for too many families before Trump," Orange County progressive Sam Jammal told us. "Now, with Trump and his agenda, it's on life support. And this is largely because we stopped focusing on growing the middle class and making sure workers can be upwardly mobile. Both parties forgot about the rest of us in order to cater to the wealthiest. Now, home ownership is at its lowest since World War II, wages no longer grow, no one is saving for retirement and things that used to be affordable-- like education and child care-- are becoming cost prohibitive. As automation and artificial intelligence transition our economy further, we are going to need to develop a new contract for the American worker that restores the path to upward mobility and ensures you can put in the work and still succeed in America. The status quo is untenable."

David Gill is running halfway across the country-- in central Illinois-- but he and Sam are on the same page: "I’m confident that we will bring an end to this 'Second Gilded Age' in the near future. Voters across the political spectrum are fed up, and they have a good understanding of the reason that life is so difficult for the majority of them. They understand that the deck is stacked against them by members of Congress who are bought and sold by the super-wealthy and the multinational corporations. Rather than standing up for a single-payer healthcare system, a $15 per hour minimum wage, and tuition-free access to public universities, colleges, and trade schools, we have a Congress that instead serves the interests of the insurance industry, the arms manufacturers, the fossil fuel industry, and the Wall Street banks. And the voters understand this, and they are just itching for the opportunity to support true populists who actually care about the well-being of ordinary citizens. Traveling the 14 counties of my district, one can sense that change is in the air, that there is a groundswell coming, and that Republicans and conservative Democrats who try to stand in the way of that groundswell are going to be swept away."

Jenny Marshall is a progressive (and Berniecrat) running for the North Carolina congressional seat held by multimillionaire anti-family bigot Virginia Foxx. She didn't have to hesitate before telling us that "I have often called big businesses who pay poverty wages while the top management rakes in millions in compensation and seeks to drive out competition so they can control the market, modern day robber barons. These new companies are mirrored after the old time robber barons who gobbled up their competition, raised prices and worked their laborers until they were no longer able to work then discarded them without a second thought. During this first Gilded Age we rose up demanding fair wages, safe working conditions, 40 hour work week, sick days, workers compensation, and the list goes on. People today are struggling to put food on the table and more and more workers are seeing their protections stripped away. We are seeing workers banding together to push back against these corporatist attacks. Our campaign is focusing on these issues making sure we get back to putting people needs over profits."

 During the 19th Century American Gilded Age "several industries," wrote Neate, "including oil, steel, sugar and cotton, became controlled by a few large companies, run by trusts. The trusts controlled every aspect of production, from raw materials to manufacturing and sales, enabling them to operate as monopolies in their industrial sector and keep out competitors. The trusts turned their owners into some of the richest people to ever live, and whose descendants still feature on annual rich lists. Anger at the wealth accrued by so few people at the apparent expense of their poorly treated workers led industrialists, including Cornelius Vanderbilt (railroads), Andrew Carnegie (steel), JP Morgan (finance) and John Jacob Astor (real estate and fur), to be dubbed robber barons. Historian TJ Stiles said the term was adopted to 'conjure up visions of titanic monopolists who crushed competitors, rigged markets, and corrupted government. In their greed and power, legend has it, they held sway over a helpless democracy.' Can anyone doubt that Trump and his grotesque menagerie are trying to recapture those good old days in everything they do, from appointments to gutting the regulatory system to this obscene tax scam?
President Theodore Roosevelt, elected in 1901, moved to break up the monopolies. John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was split into 34 separate companies, including the predecessors of Exxon, BP and Chevron.

The Gilded Age gave way to the Progressive Era, when the backlash against the excesses and inequalities of the earlier period prompted widespread social activism and political reform.
Frerick went further in an interview he did with NY Times reporter Alan Rappeprt this week. Rappeport's article shows how the Trump Regime "has ignored the traditional systems put in place by the Treasury to analyse the consequences of tax overhauls. The Senate was about to vote on the proposed tax plan and Steven Mnuchin had promised that a thorough analysis would be completed before the vote. That hadn't happened. "This negligence," Frerick subsequently wrote to his supporters in Iowa, "is a threat to our economy and an insult to the Department of the Treasury... Until May, I was an economist in the Office of Tax Analysis at the Treasury. I have been shocked at the disrespect shown to my former colleagues. Earlier this year, the Trump administration removed a paper from the Treasury website that was written by our team in 2012. Why? The research doesn't support the administration's claims about the current tax plan. We cannot stand with an administration that ignores facts."

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At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not "welcome". But I am trapped. Just as you and nearly everyone.

"...the Gilded Age, led to President (Teddy, for clarity) Roosevelt breaking up companies and trusts and increasing taxes on the wealthy in the early 1900s.
Will there be similarities in the way society reacts to this gilded age? Will the second age end or will it proceed?”

To answer, one must ask what differs today. As it turns out, plenty is different. You see, it seems that the robber baron caste has learned much from their previous foray into this level of inequality. Even so, it also seems that, in order to vacuum ALL WEALTH for themselves, they are dismantling much of what would allow them to proceed. PROBABLY.

1) We have sustenance programs today that did not exist in 1900. At the height of the GD, something like one person died of starvation every 12 minutes. One more died of treatable illness every 15 minutes. Today? SSI, Medicare and Medicaid exist as well as other food, health and housing support programs... for now anyway. In addition to taxing the rich much less and either borrowing or taxing the proles more, our government of/by/for the wealth is moving to eliminate these.
2) Unions. Burgeoning then. Moribund now.
3) the electorate. They cared then. They're dumber than shit now. And now they are distracted by skillful admen and provocateurs who make these brain dead organic lumps ALWAYS vote against their own interests and for the interests of the money, who is producing all these media ads that make us stupid.
4) the press. Far more honest and free then (even considering the likes of Hearst). Completely assimilated by the money now. They tended to serve the masses then. They serve only the money and the money's minions now.
5) government. Because of 2 thru 4 being better then, the voters and resultant government tended to be MUCH more effective then. TR used Sherman to destroy a variety of trusts and monopolies. He raised taxes on the rich and taxed corporations. Much of this was undone by Coolidge which helped create the Great Depression. But starting again with Hoover and ending with Eisenhower, taxes were raised and made very progressive, which both allowed the government to affect programs that helped to protect the many from the predation of the few AND to flatten out the naturally occurring boom/bust cycles intrinsic to capitalism.
Starting with the sainted Reagan and continuing, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, to now, taxes have been systematically lowered on the top and raised on the bottom, middle and near-top. The nation is now carrying a $23 trillion millstone around its neck... a burden never borne by the rich. Given how stupid, gullible and malleable the electorate is (and getting worse), this trend WILL NOT STOP.

Will the 2nd age end? Only because of total economic collapse or the US defeat in a next world war... or both. Americans have proved to be fundamentally unable and unwilling to address any of the aspects of this new guilded age. It's been almost 40 years in the making and at each opportunity americans choose to make it worse.

You tell me how it can possibly end.

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You tell me how it can possibly end."

AmeriKKKa will be Made White Again. Whether anything remains standing and functional isn't very likely. It would be like the post-apocalyptic movie "Threads, only with less civilization.


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