The myth of fluid upward mobility blinds us to how stacked our system has become against the aspirations of the less well-off, thereby enabling an elite to capture every larger shares of income, wealth, privilege, and control over government while those below receive relatively smaller shares, face fewer opportunities, and command increasingly less control.
American politicians and their brain trusts are trying to figure out how to talk about poverty and inequality in the United States without resorting to truth-concealing euphemism. This is a humbling experience for a country that prides itself on social mobility: admitting that previous efforts have stalled, that inequality has worsened and is damaging our national cohesion.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, helped set the tone for this year's World Economic Forum by releasing the comprehensive report that disclosed that the world's richest 1 percent are on track own more than half of the world's wealth by next year. It is fair to say that the report has been a hot topic at many panel sessions and in informal gatherings.
Between the New Deal and the 1970s, Wall Street was tightly controlled. Taxes on the wealthy were high, worker wages were rising, and debt levels on consumers, companies and government were low. After finance wriggled free from these regulations private and public debt exploded, wages stalled, taxes on the rich fell and inequality soared.