COLUMN: Plutocrats: Could a new Progressive Era emerge?
Are we on the verge of a new Progressive Era? The first Progressive Era was a period of reform, correcting the excesses of the first Gilded Age in which untold wealth was accumulated by a few while the rest languished. Now, we’re in a new Gilded Age, as we’ve discussed this week, a time of immense wealth for a few and record levels of inequality.
So, the final question this week: If history repeats itself, is a new Progressive Era inevitable?
This week, we’ve talked about the division of the world into the ultra-rich and the rest of us, the new Gilded Age, and the new plutocrats’ ambivalent attitudes about the rest of us, relying on a new book, "Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else."
Why might history repeat? In one word: Democracy. In our political system, the people can elect officials who implement reforms, such as redistribution of wealth and regulation of the financial sector. Democracy is an inconvenient truth for plutocrats.
In the first Progressive Era, a steep progressive tax was enacted on the super-rich. By 1918, the tax rate on the super-rich had reached 77 percent, writes Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats. She also describes how plutocrats fought back, reducing the rate. Yet plutocrats can’t control what happens at the ballot box.
It’s a good question: Are we at the verge of the next Progressive Era? Obama has drawn a line in the sand, insisting that the wealthy pay more taxes. The public is behind him.
More than half of Americans (55 percent) say that Obama is making a serious effort to avert the fiscal clifff, but only 32 percent say that Republicans are doing the same, according to a new Pew poll.
Do you support Obama's solution to the fiscal cliff?
Do you think we are on the verge of a new progressive era?