I've been thinking a lot these days about the human capacity for denial. It is an amazing thing to behold, even when the consequences are profoundly dire and imminent. From the coming water wars and climate change to income inequality, poisoning the environment, peak oil, and our infrastructure collapse, the signs of growing chaos surround us.
At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent. But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
For better or for worse, the only real possibility for effective action on any of these fronts is government. That's where the institutions we've created to help our society manage itself reside. And I fear it's for worse, because at least half of our government is occupied by greeders and thieves whose interests lie in profiting from the chaos. It's not exclusively the Republican party, there are plenty of like-minded Democrats. But at a policy level, a big chunk of the responsibility for inaction rests on Republican shoulders.