Inequality for all
"Inequality for all" is a documentary which essentially is a polished lecture given by professor Robert Reich w/ fancy graphics. Basically in the film Reich argues that the US middle class is shrinking, feeling economically insecure and states the gap between rich and poor is at its widest point since the great depression of the 1930's. The bottom line of the Reich lecture is that wealth disparity in the USA is a direct result of shrinking union membership.
Inequality for All isn't boring. Which is surprising, considering it's a 90-minute documentary about the declining wage-earning capability of the American middle class.
There might be some truthiness that the US middle class is indeed shrinking, because Stephen Colbert reported that middle-class Canadians (aka "ice-holes") had the audacity of being more affluent than their American counterparts.
"As you all know, I'm a big fan of numbered lists, and the main reason I love them is because America is always at the top. We are #1 in billionaires, worker productivity, and percentage of population behind bars. But sadly, I might be falling out of love with lists, and here's the #1 reason why, Canada's middle class is now beating ours. They're bringing home more of the bacon - and even worse, it's that round shit."
Looking at the issue of income inequality from a different perspective, I think what happened to the exponential growth of average wages POST WWII in the USA, was a serendipitous economic anomaly! Furthermore I suggest that the upwardly mobile middle class that took a firm hold in the public imagination between 1945 to the late 1960's, was just a "myth." Consider an alternative view where the american middle class was an "unofficial" cold war US propaganda movement started as a way to claim moral superiority over the "godless" people in the USSR!! The US middle class propaganda movement "myth" parallels the fact that it wasn't until the late 1950s that "In God We Trust" appeared on the US currency, thanks to a law signed by President Eisenhower (to see for yourself compare the back of a 1956 "atheist" dollar bill to a 1957 "religiously inspired" dollar bill).
Getting back to my economic thesis, before the great depression in the 1930s the way I see things there were lots of poor folk, a small middle class and a much smaller group of really rich folk (which seems to be the historical norm).
Seems Ford w/ the model T basically started the pattern of the "modern" consumer society and the so called US middle class. Another area of explosive growth, besides the automotive industry was in the area of aviation. Consider the first human controlled flight took place in 1903, which eventually led to the development of the DC-3 in the 1930's. The DC-3 was the first commercially viable airplane which ushered in the era of the airlines (this allowed people for the first time in history to be able to visit and transport goods all over the world).
Post WW II is where the "myth" of the US middle class really took hold, not only within society of the USA but also around the world. I say this because if you think about it the USA stood alone (i.e. w/out any "global" competition in the areas of energy production, tech development, the ability to produce consumer goods on a massive scale, banking and had a military force the likes the world had not seen before). Or said another way, POST WWII the USA was the only true all round superpower, if ya honestly look at the literature on the USSR you'll see it was only a "military" super power!
On July 24, 1959, the monumental struggle between the U.S. and the USSR in the Cold War all boiled down to two men in a make-believe kitchen.
W.R.T. "peak oil" production of the early 1970's within the lower 48 states of USA, as a nation it didn't have any global competition to speak of (in energy production, tech development, the ability to produce consumer goods or the banking industry). Because the population of the USA was a superpower in all areas, the typical un-educated guy on the street could post WW II expect to have a job that paid an un-imagined high wage (w.r.t. pre-1930's depression wages).
Framing the economy issue in personal terms, consider the typical american POST WWII; with the economy booming average wages were high and Americans were able to buy all kinds of "complex" products such as a car or even an airplane, but the typical Russian was NOT!
The mid 1960s was the start of the transition period, from when the USA was the dominant producer of consumer products. It was around this era when Japan and Germany were able to produce/ship their own consumer products. As a direct result of global competition, I'd argue that it should not be unexpected that wage growth for the typical "unskilled" worker in the USA would start to slow, relative to the wages in Japan and Germany which were just starting their growth phase.
By the 1980's Japan and Germany had fully rebuilt their industrial base which was totally destroyed during WWII. NOTE it during this period that the USA was no longer the largest producer of "oil" (or for that matter energy self sufficient) because OPEC took over that spot. So for the first time since the end of WWII, the USA faced mature economic competitors; combined with the fact since the USA no longer was a net exporter of liquid fuels it stands to reason the high wage advantage enjoyed by the typical "un-skilled" American during the global rebuilding period (POST WWII) was now history!
The simple fact of the matter is the reason "poor" people are trapped at the bottom is because they lack a skill set to that is in economic demand (i.e. lack the skills to climb the economic ladder). The way I see things in a world where there exists global economic competition, the only morally and economically sustainable way for the poor to improve their lot in life (i.e. generate wealth) is to nurture skills that are in "economic" demand.
Looking at the raw data, majors in college that make the most money all involve math and science! The majors in college that make the least money do not emphasize any formal math and science training. Note the trend of math and science education is the key factor of upward mobility and holds true everywhere...
Seems since the world has global competition and eliminating the emotional variable of "unions," the only logical conclusion one can derive using economic analysis is, if people within the 99% movement want to reverse their own relative economic decline, then its necessary to nudge people to think more like a geek (who loves and applies math and science in their lives). Sadly society as a whole won't adopt this solution to income inequality because the simple fact of the matter is, a math geek is not seen as being as "socially" cool as say a contestant on "American idol."
Bottom line, unlike Reich I've concluded that a "union" only adds drag in a modern economy since union leader ship could advocate for an additional layer of regulations because of economic self interest. If it was possible I'd bet lots of my own good money that only when a majority of people within society have a firm overall understanding of math and science (and can apply that skill set), will there be a reversal in the decline of the so called American middle class.