July 20, 2018

TITLE: You say class warfare like it's a bad thing

We've all heard it since we were kids in school: Questioning the growing imbalance between the ultra-rich and regular folk is simply not to be done and will not be tolerated. It is envy, pure and simple. It's downright undemocratic. It's the way commies talk. Americans do not engage in class warfare. Shush.

But, the fact is, class warfare has been taking place -- not by the middle classes, but by the richest among us who have been siphoning off the wages and productivity of the largely supine lower- and middle-classes for 50 years and longer.

And that's a bad thing.

According to Thomas Piketty in his landmark work, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," "U.S. income inequality has grown significantly since the early 1970s. Using Piketty's stats, if the US currently had the same income distribution it had in 1979, each middle- and lower-income family would currently have, on average, over $12,000 per year in additional income. Bet you could think of some pretty good ways to spend an extra grand per month -- money that is currently going directly into the pockets of people who already have pockets so deep it just keeps falling.

Former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan said, "This is not the type of thing which a democratic society – a capitalist democratic society – can really accept without addressing."

Even rich guys are worried: Ray Dalio, the chairman of the world's biggest hedge fund, titled a recent LinkedIn post, "Our Biggest Economic, Social, and Political Issue." He wrote, "The share of the nation's total income that goes to the top 10% of the population is at the highest point in over a century." Dalio is concerned that inequality will lead to lower economic growth, noting that because wealthy people spend less of their income than poor people, less money will be put back into the economy to the Federal Reserve.

According to CNN Money, the nation's economic divide has markedly widened in just the past few years. "The median upper-income family (those who make more than $127,600) now holds 75 times the wealth of the median low-income family (those who make less than $42,500)... In 2007, top earners were worth 40 times as much. In 1989, the multiple was 28."

According the Harvard Business Review, "Since the early 1970s, the hourly inflation-adjusted wages received by the typical worker have barely risen, growing only 0.2% per year. In other words, though the economy has been growing, the primary way most people benefit from that growth has almost completely stalled."

And that's a bad thing.

For those of you still "shushing," let me ask you a question: In 1970 the top 1% of American's controlled about 15% of national wealth (according to CNN Money). In 2006 it was 30%. It's now over 38%.

The question: At what point do even you shushers acknowledge what's been going on? When the top controls 75%? 85%? 95%? Will you still be making excuses for them then? Or will they no longer even need your help because they will be able to operate with complete impunity, democracy be damned. That's where we're heading, and in a hurry.

A time is coming when the old admonitions simply won't work anymore. Regular Americans will finally start fighting back, first by understanding that a war has been waged against them for decades. Then they will demand action.

Those of us who have done well truly are living the American Dream, but with that behest comes a responsibility to insist that those who have done even better than we have carry their share of the load.

To start, we need to return to a much more progressive tax rate. Hey, even my beloved Beatle, George Harrison, who bemoaned England's 95% tax rate in his 1996 masterpiece "Taxman" ("It's one for you, nineteen for me... Should five percent appear to small, be careful I don't take it all."), still managed to eke out a couple castles and a few hundred million -- pounds.

We also need to start supporting unions again and enact a living wage for people who work a lot harder than someone clipping coupons left in a fat envelope by daddy at the reading of the will.

It should be pretty clear by now to almost anyone that a very painful political power realignment is coming. In coming weeks we will be witnessing an avalanche of once Trump-die-hards break away from the administration as it encounters increasing legal and ethical woes. When the dust settles, it will be a time of deep chastening, repudiation -- and eventually, for our nation -- a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a new political realignment.

Class warfare, only this time the other way around.

And that's a good thing.

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Multiple award-winning author Charles Carr writes and edits for many well-known publications. Carr is also a noted playwright whose next show is in pre-production at the California Center for the Arts. Contact him at charlescarr.com.