Summer of Discontent

The news is full of Donald Trump and his lead in the crowded Republican field. Off to the side a bit, Sen Bernie Sanders is drawing huge crowds and capturing the imaginations of many supporters – and a few polls, too. With more than a year to go the Presidential election is going wildly off script as insurgent candidates are leading the insider choices, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

Will this keep up for the next year or more?

A smart person would say that nothing is predictable as the electorate is obviously very volatile right now. Good thing I’m not smart. Despite the teevee noise and the large crowds it is very early and what we might call “mainstream” voters – people with jobs, families, et cetera – are not engaged yet. They will probably put a stop to the circuses and at least change the tone before it’s all over. But that doesn’t mean the election will quite go back on script.

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Inequality: A Feature of the System

In his inaugural speech, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio returned constantly to the theme of “A Tale of Two Cities”. New York is big enough to be both of them at once – one a poor city where people barely get by and another that is wealthy beyond the imagination of most people. But it isn’t just his city that de Blasio wants to fix. “This inequality problem bedevils the entire country,” he intoned. “But it is not just a moral outrage, it is a horrible constraint on economic growth and on giving people the security they need to tackle problems.”

So starts 2014, the year when inequality is certain to be the big social, political, and economic issue. That is a given because after many years of intellectual stagnation the Democrats have a popular issue that they can run with. Where did it come from? A lot of credit has to go to a short video published in November 2012 that still lights up social media. And the reaction to it shows how far we have to go in order to tackle the problems of inequality.

After all, it’s not a matter of policy – inequality is a feature of the system we have.

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