Fiddler on the Roof
In this wonderful play and movie, Jews living in a remote area of Czarist Russia start seeing their customs and traditions erode and disappear. It is a story of the ages.
Retired people my age are almost always bemoaning the changes in society. In the case of my generation, however, there may be something to it; we never worried about finding a good job or getting ahead. College costs were low and so was housing. People were civil, and only nasty people used vulgar language.
Since 1975, however, unknown to many of us, the buying power of the average wage has steadily declined, and the distribution of both income and wealth has become badly skewed so that the upper 20% earn most of the money and have accumulated most of the wealth. Earnings from investments far outperform earnings from salaries and wages. College costs also skyrocketed.
Middleclass and lower income Americans first responded to these trends by sending their wives to work, and also working longer hours and getting two jobs. When this didn’t work they began borrowing large sums on their credit cards and on their houses in order to try to maintain their standard of living. This all came tumbling down after the housing bubble crashed, and we continue to be in a terrible mess.
There have been many causes: globalization, the decline in private industry labor unions, the pressure on CEO’s for short-term results, federal government interference in education, the rise of the welfare state, the burst of inflation causing huge increases in the cost of imported oil, technology, unintended consequences of lowering taxes – especially on investment profits, the overturning of the Glass-Steagall Act, etc., etc., etc.
The housing crash opened a festering sore that the Republican Party has not adequately addressed, and some in the Party have not even seemed to notice. In my mind now, the only thing worse than the Republican Party is the Democratic Party whose entire program is aimed at symptoms, not causes.
Labels: Wealth Inequality