Poetic Justice Coming For The 1%

To understand just how grim the coming decade is likely to be for the world’s super-rich, let’s start with three premises:

1) Capitalist democracy — defined as free individuals managing their own property and periodically electing new leaders — is the only system of social organization that’s consistent with human nature and is, therefore, sustainable.

2) Capitalism inevitably produces inequality as a few participants — through energy, creativity, and (frequently) luck — do extremely well while the vast majority do okay and a few do very badly.

3) Since the big winners — now commonly known as the 1% — are vastly outnumbered by the rest of society, they can only keep their exulted position if they convince the 99% to let them be. If the rich fail to make their case, everyone else will simply vote to expropriate the most visible fortunes.

If you accept these assertions, it follows that enlightened elites would be all about fostering upward mobility, because when people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder know that by working hard and following the rules they can move their families to the next higher rung in a reasonable amount of time, they focus on their on improving prospects and don’t much care if a few billionaires live like princes and kings.

But that’s emphatically not the case these days. The current generation of corporate and political winners have blatantly and systematically exploited nearly everyone else. Amazon, for instance, staffs its hellscape warehouses with RV caravans of migrant senior citizens working long, hard days for subsistence wages. Apple makes its high-margin phones in Chinese sweatshop factories where suicide is the biggest occupational health hazard.

Manufacturing company CEOs close their domestic factories and ship the jobs overseas, then pay themselves massive year-end bonuses to reflect the resulting slight uptick in profit margins. Banks hijack the political process to get themselves deregulated and then pass laws that make borrowers lifetime slaves of creditors. Politicians enter public life with modest bank accounts and retire multi-millionaires. Pretty much the entire political/corporate class favors more-or-less open borders, guaranteeing themselves cheap nannies and gardeners while American wages stagnate.

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