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The Return of the 19th Century

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Reprinted from by gjohnsit

A friend once told me that the wealthy elite didn't want to just "roll back" the New Deal, they wanted to roll back the entire 20th Century. His point was that all the social gains of the 20th Century were granted to us in order to combat global communism, and that with the collapse of communism the wealthy elite are going it take it all back.    I didn't fully appreciate his sentiments until recently.

   The recent upsurge in global piracy seems strange and exotic in today's world, but in fact it is rather appropriate in the full context of national events.
   Below is a list of trends which show the 21st Century is going to look a lot more like the 19th Century than the 20th Century.

Big Labor

  Can we finally stop saying "Big Labor"? Last year labor union membership had shrunk to 11.8% of the total workforce and only 6.6% of the private sector.
   You have to go all the way back to 1900 to find such a small union footprint in the private sector.

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Second Gilded Age

  Along with the destruction of labor unions and the middle class we've see a dramatic rise in inequality. The U.S. has the worst inequality in the developed world.
   Inequality has hit levels not seen since the Robber Barons.

"the cruellest of our revenue laws, I will venture to affirm, are mild and gentle in comparison of some of those which the clamour of our merchants and manufacturers has extorted from the legislature for the support of their own absurd and oppressive monopolies. Like the laws of Draco, these laws may be said to be all written in blood."
  - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

   Anti-trust laws date all the way back to Edward III in 14th Century England.
   Adam Smith was particularly hostile to monopolies.

 Like all monopolies, the monopoly of colonial trade imposes costs throughout the rest of the economy and reduces the competitiveness of the rest of the economy.
   Pretty much every economist since Adam Smith, from David Ricardo to John Maynard Keynes, supported anti-monopoly laws. That is until Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan came along in the 1980's. We are now witnessing the results of Friedman/Greenspan's faith in free-market fundamentalism.

   It's really quite simple, and only the most extreme right-wingers still deny that monopolies happen and they are bad for the economy and democracy.

   There is no reasonable person denying that corporate America is increasingly concentrated.
  For example, recall in the 1980's that a telecommunications monopoly was a bad thing, and now look at AT&T today.
 Most of Standard Oil has been reconstituted.
Monsanto has monopolized seed production.
   The list goes on and on.

  So why don't we read about this financial monopoly in the press? Well, that's another story.

 Of the 1,500 daily newspapers in the country, 99 percent are the only daily in their cities. Of the 11,800 cable systems, all but a handful are monopolies in their cities. Of the 11,000 commercial radio stations, six or eight formats (all-talk, all-news, variations of rock music, rap, adult contemporary, etc.), with an all but uniform content within each format, dominate programming in every city. The four commercial television networks and their local affiliates carry programs of essentially the same type, with only the meagerly financed public stations offering a genuine alternative. Thus, most of the media meet the tongue-twisting argot of Wall Street in J being oligopolies that are collections of local monopolies.
 No place has a more concentrated monopoly than Wall Street. Nor one more dependent on the taxpayer.

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7:14 PM PT:  Return of Gilded Age Politics

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What a great article. I have been terrified of cor... by dara dixie on Sunday, Oct 6, 2013 at 10:37:07 AM
Great points. Studies show that inequality hurts e... by Simon Leigh on Sunday, Oct 6, 2013 at 11:03:23 AM
Very incendiary article... by rafe husain on Sunday, Oct 6, 2013 at 12:32:22 PM
I hope it's incendiary!  SEARING factual TRUT... by Gusto on Sunday, Oct 6, 2013 at 3:47:06 PM
The fact that this has been going on for over 35 y... by Donna McKee on Sunday, Oct 6, 2013 at 12:45:51 PM
Great to see this in print.  I have been talk... by Michael Melville on Sunday, Oct 6, 2013 at 8:50:22 PM
This is also an excellent article that should be b... by Neal Chalabi Chambers on Monday, Oct 7, 2013 at 2:21:52 AM
A little surprised such a historically informed ar... by Maxwell on Monday, Oct 7, 2013 at 7:23:35 AM
Nice article!... by John Nelson on Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013 at 5:03:53 PM