" When Americans are faced with the prospect that they can never earn their way into wealth, they have two choices: to rebel against the system, or to settle into depressed complacency."
I'm a bit of a politics junky so some friends and family have been asking me who I think should be the US President out of those currently still in the race. My answer seems to kind of surprise them. First though, let me set some context for my response.
Ideally, a country should have a balance of political power between labour and capital, capital referring to the relatively small group of people who control the majority of the nation's wealth. Even beyond what they actually own, this small group often has a disproportionate influence on business decisions simply by organizing a controlling number of shares in corporations.
If labour and capital balance each other then workers generally make good pay and have decent disposable income, allowing them to purchase goods and services from the owners of capital. This creates a feedback loop where the owners make profits and have an incentive to invest even more in workers who then buy more. Rinse and repeat.
The United States is an interesting country in that they don't have a strictly labour party like most countries do--The NDP in Canada, the Labour Party in the UK, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, etc. In the United States, the Democratic Party is the traditional home of workers and the closest thing they have. However, if you were to look at where the party gets their funding, although organized labour still overwhelmingly parks their money there, you'd now see that many of their big donors are on the capital side of the equation.
The balance of the capital-favoring Republicans and labour-favoring Democrats has been broken by the offshoring of so many well-paying manufacturing jobs. Their union dues traditionally provided the bulk of the Democrat's campaign war-chests. In a country where money pours into elections -- $7 billion was spent by candidates, parties and outside groups in the 2012 US presidential election -- raising money is a necessity to win and the Democrats have had to turn to Big Business money to almost the same extent as the Republicans. This has naturally shifted the Democratic Party's priorities to be more in-tune with that of their donors.
Now, both parties generally get their money from different industries so they won't always agree on specifics. However, both are generally in favour of any policies that are broadly pro-owner regardless of how it affects the majority of citizens. This means capital has roughly one and a half parties on their side while labour has maybe half a party. And considering that organized capital can shop around between parties for the best return on campaign-donation investment while labour is taken for granted by the Democrats, it is clear that the balance of who benefits from policy creation is one-sided.