The Rise of Income Inequality

Nicholas Goldberg: Is Kevin de León toast?


While not a political reporter, I am a member of the punditocracy. This means I have spent a considerable portion of my life listening to and analyzing the arguments of politicians, both those in the public sphere and those running for the private sector and non-profit organizations. And when it comes to the subject of the state of American politics today, I get the same tired, old arguments over and over again.

The argument from the right about the future of the Republican Party – that the GOP doesn’t have a future – has been repeated for the last 11 years, by presidential candidates and elected officials alike. And, I must admit, I understand why their argument holds true.

It is true in that I have seen what looks like a long decline in support for the party since the early 2000s, when Republican support began to fall precipitously. Part of it was the long term decline in the economic fortunes of working-class Americans, and part was a long term decline in white union membership. But, as I wrote last year, the decline in the economic fortunes of working-class Americans is largely a reflection of income inequality, and there were other, longer term causes.

While I understand why that argument holds, it shouldn’t, because as I said last year, income inequality is the result of an unprecedented wealth transfer from working classes to the wealthy at the top of the income scale – who tend to be white, male, able-bodied and older. It is a redistribution of income power from lower and middle levels of the income scale to the top income level, and this transfer has been ongoing since the end of the 1950s.

The decline of union membership, in much the same way that the loss in white unionization has been the cause of a white middle class decline since the late 1970s, has primarily been caused by a long term decline in union membership, the result of mass layoffs and mass firings of white union members by powerful employers like AFL-CIO (and I have written many times about the AFL-CIO/union bust). The reason why white union membership declined, is not attributable to the rise in income inequality, it is attributable to the rise in income inequality, or, to put it another way, the decline of wages. Why would that decline in union membership cause

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