It isn’t a fiscal policy: Trickle-down economics is a fact of life.
“Why is trickle-down economics still with us?” lamented Robert Reich for The Guardian last week: “This gonzo economic theory continues to live on, notwithstanding its repeated failures.”
Under “failures”, see “inflation and the worsening economy,” which is not, Reich argues, the fault of the Democratic Party but of that bad old Reaganesque fiscal policy.
Reich is right about one thing: The wealth gap is embarrassing. The haves have more than ever; the have-nots are getting more desperate by the day.
It’s even worse now than it was only two years ago. The world’s 10 wealthiest people doubled their wealth during COVID19, according to Oxfam. Since no mainstream media outlets seem eager to corroborate the assertion, we’ll all have to trust Oxfam.
But the wealth gap between the wealthiest members of a society and the most impoverished has been with humanity since the beginning.
There have always been tyrants, robber barons, organized crime, and other unscrupulous elements willing to exploit others to achieve their ends.
The exploitative dark side of human nature- and by extension, human systems like capitalism or communism- are the reasons we have things like child labor laws. We have those laws, to our shame, because we need them.
That the modern day wealth gap has grown beyond all comprehension isn’t the fault of capitalism, and it isn’t a malfunction of trickle-down economics.
Trickle-down economics has worked magnificently, just as it always has, just as it was designed to do as a vital tool for human advancement and social development.
Things which once were so astronomically expensive as to be out of reach for the vast majority of the world’s population have become basic standards of living most people in wealthy nations don’t even think about.
Indoor plumbing, electricity, the internal combustion engine, the Pentium Processor: These advancements were neither cheap nor easy to pioneer.
The costs of building the first- or the first dozen attempts, considering it was highly experimental- electrical grid were astronomical. The only people in society with the money to invest in such a promising, if improbable, advancement were, obviously, the very wealthiest.
Only the wealthiest and most highly educated in society would have even considered such a proposition in the first place. When electricity was first introduced into homes and businesses, people were terrified, the way we might be today if someone created a nuclear battery to power our homes.
The public thought electricity was a dangerous folly likely to burn their houses down around them.
Most major advancements were like that.
Want to see a miracle? Go to the nearest tap, turn it on and fill a glass. If you can drink the water, congratulations. You might worry about the occasional boil advisory, lament the state of crumbling U.S. infrastructure and consider the implications of “dissolved solids,” but such clean, convenient water would have made even our not-so-ancient ancestors faint dead away with envy.
From en suite bathrooms, to garden bathtubs, to personal computers; x-ray machines and dialysis: What the only the rich had yesterday, the middle class has today, the working class has tomorrow.
When flat screen plasma televisions made their debut onto the retail marketplace two decades ago, they were $20,000. Today, you can pick up a better version for $250.
All these technological boons, including life-extending medicine, trickled down to the rest of us from wealthy early adopters.
Capitalism did the rest. Television companies wanted someone’s $20,000, sure; but not everyone can afford $20,000, so they wanted people’s $10,000 and $5,000, too. And $2,000. And $1,000. The more people who can afford to buy your product, the better. Just ask the Olsen Twins.
Beyond modern conveniences, public sanitation, and flying machines, more people are connected via the internet than ever before- a vital resource for education and cooperation. The first computers, lest we forget in the good fortune of our technological largesse, took up an entire room and required industrial cooling equipment to operate safely.
Still, there is no denying that the wealth gap has come to literally defy visual description. Unlike at any other time in the past, the gap between the worlds wealthiest 1% of the 1% and the rest of us is so big, it can no longer be shown on a graph or rendered in a chart.
If all the wealth owned by the bottom 99.99% of us were the size of this comma, the representation for the wealth of the .01% would need to be the size of the moon- an object too big for your eye to see.
It’s a tragedy and a farce, but it isn’t a failure of trickle-down economics or even capitalism.
It is a failure of globalization.
Globalization gave us a 10,000 mile vital supply line hoisted upon two crumbling pillars: Petroleum and world peace. Globalization hollowed out the U.S. middle class and exploited workers in emerging nations to make already wealthy corporations bizarrely wealthy.
It made the world’s richest nations utterly dependent on governments willing to best allow the exploitation of people and natural resources. It gave corporations willing to use exploitation an unbeatable edge over their more squeamish competitors.
Globalization widened the wealth gap to its present state.
The major downsides of globalization thus far are considerable and the pain is far from over. Wealthy corporations are still exploiting the lack of labor laws and environmental restrictions in emerging nations to make the 1% of the 1% wealthier than the rest of the world put together.
If U.S. corporations were held to U.S. legal standards with regards to obeying labor laws and environmental regulations, it would result in an immediate transfer of a vast amount of wealth from the wealthiest corporations and individuals in the world to the working class for a simple and obvious reason: Companies would have to pay their employees more, even the ones in other countries; and they would have to pay more in taxes.
Blaming trickle-down economics demonstrates a lack of understanding about how the wealth gap got so bad in the first place.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)