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Notes From the Fieldby Martin Weil

September 28, 2013

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”

That cheery quote is from a 2012 Harvard study cited in Washington’s Blog. The anonymous, but generally well-researched and highly credible, Wash Blog continues with the following:

  • It’s the highest level of inequality ever recorded in the U.S.

These are ominous allegations to be sure and suggest that we may be closer to a tipping point than normally thought. While I am in no position to argue the merits of the historical comparisons, Wash Blog also notes that Americans are unaware of just how far inequality has progressed in the US. That is an assertion I can attest to from personal observation.

Many have commented previously that the Tea Party and Occupy movements are reactions to the degrading economic situation for the middle classes in the US. The causes of this decline are hotly debated, with the prime culprits viewed as either the competition from foreign labor and/or tax policy in the US. A lack of infrastructure and education spending, which proportionately provides a higher benefit to those with less income, is also cited.

Winston Churchill famously quipped that you could “always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” Let’s hope that Winnie was correct, as the historical record is filled with great cultures that have foundered on their internal inequality.

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