With the continuing struggle in Wisconsin played out against the backdrops of a potential government shutdown in DC and an epic regional revolution in the Arab world, everything is about economics these days. As it should be--it's only by understanding what's going on economically that we can also address the other big issues of our time. They're all tied together, and they mostly have to do with the things that those who hold wealth and power will do to increase and consolidate those things.
Mother Jones has a series of charts and graphs that show in simple, visual terms (the kind even a non-economist like me can easily grasp) the inequality of economic life in the U.S. today. The second one, showing how the very wealthy have acquired most of the wealth generated since the end of the 1970s, is particularly striking. The top 1% have done phenomenally well for themselves. The top 20% have done okay. All the rest of us have seen wealth diminish over that period. That can't be good for our economy, which has become structured around the idea of a strong middle class that can spend and enjoy the fruits of our labor. And, of course, we've all seen what the economy has done since 2007-2008. Given the gradual gutting of the middle class, we could be looking at a very long period of high unemployment and weak growth, if any.
Also in Mother Jones is an interesting piece by Kevin Drum detailing how the weakening of the labor movement (with the help of both Republicans and Democrats) has been detrimental to the middle class, and why we ought not let Wisconsin's Governor Walker get away with his frontal attack on unions. The labor movement effectively built the middle class in this country, and whether or not we belong to unions, we have all benefited from their efforts. It would be a bad idea to turn away from them now.