Thursday, October 16, 2014

Politics Hardly Seem to Change, the Sequel

Political cartoon from late 1800s, "How Foolish Men Vote"
With the inundation of political commercials on television, few Americans could be unaware of the approaching elections.  On November 24, 2011, soon after I began this blog, I compared the political issues of Isaac Werner's times in the late 1800s with current issues, posting several political cartoons from that era. People continue to visit that blog, making it one of my most popular posts.  I thought it might be worthwhile to take a fresh look at whether conditions have changed.

The political cartoon at right is also from the newpaper to which Isaac Werner subscribed.  Its subtitle reads:  "The Farmer, Mechanic or Workman Who Votes for Either of the Old Parties is Voting Bread, Meat, Clothes and Money Out of Reach of His Wife and Children."  Many of the political cartoons posted in my earlier blog also address the issue of political influence exerted by wealthy and powerful men, at the expense of other Americans.  Obviously, that issue continues to play a significant role in politics today.  (You can enlarge by clicking in the image.)

I recently saw a chart (See below left) posted on face book, comparing the ratio of CEO pay to regular workers' pay.  Not only is the 354 to 1 ratio between CEO and Worker pay in the U.S. noteworthy, but also the U.S. ratio to what exists in other countries stands out.  While it is true that we are living in a global economy today, the ratio is  uniquely extreme in the U.S.  (The sources used by Maclean's appear at the bottom of the chart.) 

Of course, what struck me, just as it did in my earlier blog, is the similarity of economic disparity during the Gilded Age of Isaac Werner's time with today.  A recent news article about a house under construction in Hillsboro Beach, Florida described its 60,000 square feet built on 4 acres along 465'  of beachfront (with a 492' private dock for a yacht), having 11 bedrooms, 17 baths, a private IMAX theater with seating for 18, a putting green, a 30-car underground garage, and a 139-million-dollar price tag!  Even the millionares' mansions along 5th Avenue in NYC during the Gilded Age and the Summer Homes in Newport are eclipsed by this extreme display of wealth.

Compiled by Maclean's from various source statistics
An article posted on titled "America's 10 richest people" reported that entry into the Forbes 400 List of wealthiest Americans in 2013 required $1.3 billion to be included.  This year's list required $1.55 billion, and 113 billionaires were excluded from the list.

Within days of reading that article I read that because of the wages paid by Wal-Mart, nearly half of the children of that company's 'associates,' qualify for Medicare Benefits or go uninsured, their family situation being cited as an example of America's working poor.

A recent vote in the U.S. Senate intended to take action against the Citizens United case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court failed, cited by many as an example of money and power defeating the voice of individual Americans.  The barrage of political ads on television right now nearly all have a tiny caption at the bottom disclosing some political action group that paid for the advertising.  The power of money exerted a huge influence in American politics in Isaac Werner's times, and it still does.

Perhaps these kinds of news reports explain why my 2011 blog about similarities our own age shares with the Gilded Age explain why that blog continues to attract visitors.  Many of the Progressive ideas from the People's Party were implemented in the early years of the past century and contributed to the growth of America's Middle Class.  Today's shrinking Middle Class and the economic disparity between America's richest and poorest citizens may have more in common with the Gilded Age than the post-W.W. II years many Americans remember proudly.

I hope you visit "Politics Hardly Seem to Change" in the archives at Nov. 24, 2011.  I think you will find the cartoons and the political comparisons thought provoking, regardless of your own political positions.

1 comment:

The Blog Fodder said...

With the magic of the social networks, why is it impossible to elect independents who will enact the laws that are needed and wanted by the people of America?