Mega-wealth, Unions, and Equality

Republicans hate unions. It’s easy to see why. Unions prevent the mega-rich from beating down everyone else. The irony is that Republicans cannot seem to understand that the post-WWII period of highest union membership and greatest equality was also the period of greatest prosperity for the entire country.

This excellent graph from the Economic Policy Institute’s Colin Gordon spells it out very clearly. Some years after the 1929 plutocracy crash (which was much like the 2008 crash), union power was ascendant. When unemployment was normalized for WWII, a period of balance and equality followed, where prosperity was the rule for most people. The blue line shows union membership, but it might as well show relative wealth. Union membership began dropping about 1960, and inequality became ascendant after that, leading to the gross inequality we now experience, which is worse than the inequality of the Gilded Age that led to 1929 and the Great Depression.

The chart also makes absolutely clear the evidence for ongoing class war. This is not a class war in which the peasants storm the castle and drive out the duke. This is a war in which the very rich use every subterfuge their great wealth gives them to subvert democracy—which to a great extent depends on equality—in an attempt to build a new kind of feudal society, in which the rich own and control everything.

It is not possible to have a real democracy with this disparity of fortune. Those not rich are assaulted on all sides by circumstances that threaten their lives, everything from diminished educational opportunity to inadequate health care and poverty in retirement, and unions are one of the few defenses against such diminution. Those trying to put food on the table don’t have the luxury of trying to insure fair treatment by the government. The rich do have this luxury. They, particularly as represented by the Republican party, do everything they can to encourage greater wealth for the wealthy, less power for the people, under the false belief that such gross disparity will make us all well off. There is no evidence that this “trickle-down” wealth will ever happen. None.

It is not possible to have a real democracy
with this disparity of fortune.

On the contrary, all evidence points to what is obvious to everyone except Republicans: inequality is bad for everyone. If further evidence is needed, consult The Spirit Level, by Wilkinson and Pickett. The authors surveyed a large variety of data from many countries over a long period. Their indisputable findings: equality makes just about every measure of social wellbeing better, including a whole bunch that would seem to have no connection to the economic condition. The Republican goal: make it worse instead.

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