U.S. inequality is now close to the levels of income concentration that prevailed in Europe around 1900-10. History suggests that this kind of inequality level is not only useless for growth, it can also lead to a capture of the political process by a tiny high-income and high-wealth elite. This directly threatens our democratic institutions and values.
And as demonstrated by good old Tony "More Reagan than Reagan" Abbot:
The whole world is hurtling towards feudalism as fast as Grover Norquist can drown those pesky republican sentiments in his bathtub. No surprise that the 1% have become trans-national parasites; but why are ordinary working people following along so eagerly? What keeps people voting for the Republicans even while they strip-mine our rights for corporation's benefit?
I want to lay out the bones of an argument here. First, we have the conservative and Christian doctrine that all men are depraved and worthless. Second, we have the human need to maintain some kind of self-esteem. Thus, we see the layering of society, where the middle class accepts the domination of the upper class because they can at least place themselves above the lower class. Of course, this requires there to be a lower class that is not only poor but deserving of being poor. Furthermore, it is necessary that this lower class not be constantly shrinking as people climb up to the middle class, because that would unveil the illusion that they deserved to be poor in the first place. So we need a mechanism to keep them in the bottom class, regardless of their actual merit: and as necessity is the mother of invention, so has this mechanism already been built. It's called racism.
Racism is the perfect tool for the job, as it allows a benighted populace to salve its self esteem no matter how badly their rulers mistreat them. Because at the bottom, placed there by God himself, there is always a cushion of losers worse off than yourself. As evidence for this dynamic in Christian thought, I offer the following observation: whenever a preacher ceases preaching hellfire and damnation, he loses 90% of his flock. Apparently the existence of sinners in hell is necessary o the Christian psyche, even if it is not theologically required.
Egalitarinism, the idea that we are all equal and deserving, destroys racism - and with it the entire concept that some people are better than others, and therefore the justification for the aristocracy. This democratic, progressive impulse has always fought with the authoratarian, reactionary status quo, and it has always gradually and continually won. Until now, at least.
So it is no surprise to me to see the mask slipping, and the Republican party revealing its inner racist more and more with each day. This is not just because there is a black man in the white house, but also because the aristocracy is pushing its age-old deal: be a slave to us and we will make sure you have slaves of your own. A truly titanic battle is brewing. Future historians will look back at Occupy Wall Street the way we look at the storming of the Bastille.