I’m not actually an economist, of course — and unlike, say, George Will, I don’t even play one on television. But even as a non-economist, I have no trouble seeing the devil hiding in the recent “good” economic news about income and poverty. For example, census numbers show that income is up! Well, yeah, it’s up a little, as in, very little — and even then most of the increase is because more people are working longer hours, rather than from rising wages.
But wait, there’s even more good news. It seems that for the first time since George W. Bush rode into town, the poverty rate has actually gone down.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Economic Inequality 101. Today’s lesson: how the rich get richer while the rest tread water. We begin with a little closer look at all this good news: after years of significant economic growth, now, finally, just as the economy shows signs of slowing down, a few tiny crumbs from these “good times” may actually have begun to fall into the laps of average Americans. During this same time, of course, the wealthiest of Americans have made an absolute — obscene really — killing.
So what happens when the economy goes to shit, as appears increasingly likely to happen fairly soon? (I know, this stuff is just too easy, isn’t it?) What will happen, of course, is that the working class and especially the poor will be hurt very badly, particularly through unemployment.
And what of the wealthiest of the wealthy? They may get hurt too — a little.
So there you have economic inequality in a nutshell: in good times, ordinary Americans benefit very little, while the superrich benefit a great deal; during bad times ordinary Americans get hurt a lot, while the superrich get hurt a little. And so bit by bit the nation’s wealth is transferred from the many to the few.
Seriously, you should take some time to appreciate the majesty of it all. You’re seeing history in the making here — the death of the American middle class.