What comes after third world levels of financial inequality? A third world politics.
Collapsing infrastructure. Frequent gun massacres. Political division and growing discontent. The signs are already all around us and they are telling us something very unsettling about the future, but whether we want to see it or not is up to us.
Let's start with the nations spiraling gun massacres, because where else should we start? On the anniversary of Sandy Hook, when a heavily armed 20-year-old killed 20 children between six and seven years old (and six adults) President Trump decided the thing to do was to host Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association, at a Christmas party at the White House, on the very day.
The gesture spoke for itself. After each new gun massacre in the nation LaPierre and the NRA have opposed all talk of stricter gun-control legislation, arguing that what the nation actually needs is more military grade semi-automatic rifles on the streets, not less.
The only thing to do about our rapidly filling graveyards is to whistle past them in other words.
LaPierre and his organization are increasingly making America look like an irredeemable basket case, they are also making life here an increasingly anxious crapshoot, yet the president invites him to tea?
Then look at our crumbling bridges, freeways, railways and subways. The latter two are mostly a 19 century technology that hasn't seen adequate national upgrades to cope with the growing demands of the 21st. But nationwide safety improvements require Congressional action, and time and again our deadlocked political parties have refused to sign the bills that would allow them to happen.
In 2007 for example, Congress finally passed a law mandating positive train control, but then President George W. Bush refused to sign it because gridlock rules Washington, government doesn't.
Then look at our crumbling airports. The Society of Civil Engineers have already given them a cumulative D grade because of their systemic delays and congestion. This week a power blackout at Atlanta's airport quickly turned it into a dysfunctional nightmare, after a power loss grounded all flights and left thousands of passengers to sleep in the darkened atriums at the world’s busiest airport. They looked like exhausted refugees coming to America, not citizens just trying to get home.
Unfortunate incidents like these are trending upward, not down. We have descended into the worst infrastructure of the world's modern nations.
Given that we now have all the main signifiers of a third world infrastructure it is inevitable that we have the divided economy and third world politics that accompany them. We have even elected an autocratic celebrity "strong man" to oversee it all.
Donald Trump came to Washington D.C. after running a populist campaign. But once he reached Washington the weather changed. There is something wrong with a political system where the presidency is won on a bluntly populist message but the resulting policies turn out to be unadulterated plutocracy, and where calls to Drain The Swamp quickly turn into tax breaks for the one percent and the president’s own family.
Again, if your nation has third world levels of inequality, you will soon have a third world politics to match it.
Just 33 percent of Americans say they favored the Republican tax bill. Fully 55 percent opposed it, and their disapproval grew by 10 points since early November. 66 percent say the new tax bill clearly favors the wealthy over the middle class.
Americans aren't stupid, in other words. The majority of us can see this tax scam bill for what it is, a historic piece of class warfare where the rich fleece working Americans, sending them the bill over decades in exchange for their even bigger slice of the pie.
Everywhere we look these days the squeeze is on working people. Wages have stayed stagnant as profits have exploded for company heads, year after year. Meanwhile education costs have doubled and tripled but the low pay work opportunities for millennials and recent graduates prevents them from even moving out of their parents homes.
Everywhere you go this week the shops will be pumping out Christmas songs hoping to inspire you to splurge. But the public mood in America does not match the seasonal music because most know we just witnessed a historic heist, an unprecedented money grab by the richest, at the expense of everyone else.
The most tragic part of this tax bill is that millions of people who will be the hardest hit by it actually voted to enable it to happen.