I don’t know how it could be more stark or clear: this entire society is being dominated by corporate power in a way that may exceed what happened in the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century. The incredible power these institutions now have over the average person is just overwhelming: the way they can make these trade deals to ship people’s jobs overseas, the way consumers are just brutalized and consumer protection laws are marginalized, the way this town here—Washington—has become a corporate playground. Since I’ve been here, this place has gone from a government town to a giant corporate headquarters. To me, the whole face of the country—whether it be the government, the media, agriculture, what happens on Main Street—has become so corporatized that the progressive movement is as relevant as it was one hundred years ago, maybe more so. It’s the same issues. It’s just that [corporate] power, because of money, international arrangements and communications, is so overwhelming that the average person is nearly helpless unless we develop a movement that can counter that power. I know we’ve all tried over the years, but this is a critical moment. We need to regenerate progressivism and make it relevant to what’s happening right now. But there’s no lack of historical comparison to a hundred years ago. It’s so similar; the only real difference is that corporate power is even more extended. It’s the Gilded Age on steroids.
Feingold is not exaggerating in his comparisons between modern day America and the Gilded Age. The top 0.1 percent of income earners in America were in 2008 earning 8 percent of the country’s total income, “the same share as during the Gilded Era of the 1920s.”
A University of California-Berkeley study released in 2009 found that income inequality in 2007 was the highest it had ever been in recorded history, with the “the top 1 percent incomes [capturing] half of the overall economic growth over the period 1993-2007.”
It’s a shame President Obama doesn’t share the same concerns of the wise Russell Feingold. More here.