That was resolved by not sharing the benefits of productivity increases with workers but retaining them for the benefit of executives and shareholders. The results of this strategy was growth in two areas. First there was the continued growth of wealth for the elite. Second was the growth in two-income families just so the families could keep up. When growth in the latter was pretty much topped out, the question was how next to maintain the growth in income and wealth inequality which favored the rich.
The Company Store strategy was resuscitated; repackaged as old wine in a new bottle so to speak. The change was simple; continue to push up the cost of living, don't pay employees more money, just lend it to them; make sure everybody has multiple credit cards, financially back the builders, and incentivize the mortgage brokers. Interest payments always accrue to the already wealthy.
Cheap money available from the Federal Reserve System (FED) would assure two things; increased lending and excessively high asset values, referred to as bubbles such as housing, credit card, and commercial real estate. Bubbles of course burst as has the housing bubble. Home foreclosures are currently running at the rate of ten thousand per day.
Major impact of credit card payment default, and bankruptcies from over supply and lack of demand for commercial real estate are yet to be felt. But the wealthy elite need not worry.
Whereas the second generation of the Company store has now proved inadequate for maintaining a continuous shift of wealth from the working poor and middle class to the rich, the wealthy elite have positioned themselves in a supreme position of oligarchy and have acquired near complete control of Government, a reality that can not be reversed by ballot for four reasons.
Firstly and constitutionally, our electoral system disenfranchises opportunity for proportional representation basically assuring single party representation by state or voting district.
Secondly, Supreme Court decisions granting "corporate personhood" and "free speech in the form of money" assures special interest control of candidates for office. Campaign funding needs provide subservience to these special interests which are aligned only with the two mainstream political parties. Dual support for both parties guarantees the blurring of distinctions between them thus assuring mirror image positions on many important issues. Iraq, Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, disinterest in examining torture, lack of support for single payer universal health insurance and abandonment of Employee Free Choice are cited as examples.
Thirdly, the Presidential Debate Commission (PDC), a "corporate partnership" of the Democrat and Republican Parties, assures presidential debates will, in the words of the League of Women Voters, "perpetrate a fraud on the American voter (making it clear that the PDC's aim is) to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions (resulting in) the hoodwinking of the American public".
Fourthly, the mainstream media (MSM) is owned by major corporations whose names are found on the same special interest list that exercise control of Congress and the Administration. This assures the MSM does not provided the information to contest the fact that rules and regulations will continue to be written in such a manner as to favor five percent of the people over the needs and interests the vast ninety-five percent majority.
What we have now is the third generation of the Company Store. It bypasses workers and draws its blood money directly from the Public Treasury and the FED. The wealthy elite now steal, through bailouts, the compensation required for any of their high risk failures; not to give pigs a bad name but they feed directly from the public trough. Thus, they privately continue to steal from massive public borrowing much of what ninety-five percent of the population may still have. Even better, they are stealing from children not yet born.
Frederick Douglas tells us that "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they have resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they suppress."
We the lethargic people have submitted to the growth of inequality of wealth and income far too long. Our submission to the wealthy special interests has resulted in stagnant wage and salaries. It has resulted in lack of opportunity and downward social and economic mobility for both ourselves and our offspring. It has resulted in tremendous and seemingly permanent job losses, rising unemployment, increased homelessness, record demand on food banks, a torn and shredded safety net, gigantic banking profits, enormous private and public debt, questionable status of the dollar as the world's reserve currency, a war-based economy, and lack of or reduced stature throughout the world.
Based upon the evolution of the Company Store since the early 1970's, it seems clear that nothing short of political anarchy will evoke any change for the vast majority. How or in what form this political anarchy might take shape is "the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" as Winston Churchill once said and is not unlike the feeling of a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that is not there.
Do not expect our political system to cure itself. Do not expect our political leaders to cure it for you. Political anarchy in the form of massive civil disobedience may be the only possible cure.
Massive civil disobedience however is not easily achieved not withstanding the power of the Internet. But, it must take form one way or another for "we the people" to have real meaning.