Carol Forsloff----America used to have a strong middle class, respect for education, and a view towards the future of optimism. But experts tell us the essential fabric of the country is being negatively impacted by modern robber barons, with the potential effect that is creating greater and greater divisions between the rich and the poor.
Years ago when J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Philip Armour, Jay Gould, and James Mellon, the great titans of industry of the 19th century appeared, they had great foresight and the ability to create massive industries to make their fortunes, that brought about the building of great cities, railroads, and the foundations of modern American life. At the same time, they often used manipulation and backdoor decisions that benefited chiefly themselves, with their primary interests creating wealth not uplifting the country and building the middle class. The rise of the middle class actually came later with unions demanding people have their fair share of some of that new wealth.
And these were not the men who lined themselves up to help the nation fight in the Civil War. Instead they found substitutes they could pay to take their place in the conflict, to preserve their own lives as others were sacrificing theirs. The attitude of focusing on the needs of the self became the style that allowed these titans of great wealth to flourish.
These days the founders of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple offer modern examples of the 19th century ways, in the sense they have developed new technologies, changing the face of the economy, especially communication. They too avoided jobs or activities that would steer them away from the primary motivation to invent, to change, to forge ahead, but with the idea of making wealth as well. Their inventions brought great changes to the modern world, allowing communication across wide networks and a place where it might appear on the surface that every man had an equal chance of success.
Instead the middle class is at its worst in most of the world. While modern inventions have offered convenience, in order to focus on wealth and development, companies reduced staff, shifted work to countries where labor could be had on the cheap and increased working hours in ways that circumvented union bosses, to develop companies where unionism didn't even exist. And whereas the technical staff made money with the boss, the common man and the recipient of invention's largesse. At the same time, as rich men focused on a mantra that trickle down wealth would reach the masses, the fact is it never has.
Business Insider says it best by first detailing the histories of the robber barons, then highlighting the lives of the 20 richest people in modern times. These people hold great wealth. Thomson Reuters is the grandson of the founder of the famous media company of his name, Bill Gates founded Microsoft, David Koch and his brother Charles founded Koch Industries, Larry Ellison founded Oracle, Warren Buffett, Christy Walton of the Sam Walton fortune, as well as the founders of Google, Facebook and the heirs to Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, all are worth in the billions. They also impact a large swath of power worldwide.
All of this occurs as the middle class is reported to be eroding. This summary by the Pew Forum offers insight into that decline:
The median household income in the United States dropped from $72,956 in 2000 to $69,487 in 2010, NPR reported, and net worth sunk from $152,950 to $93,150 in that same time period.
And the actual size of the middle class is shrinking: In 2011, the middle-income tier included 51 percent of all adults; 1971, using the same income boundaries, it included 61 percent, according to Pew.
As the robber barons of old found ways to capitalize on large fortunes, while impacting the economy of the world with their inventions, so too have the titans of industry and commerce today. Some might say it is a time once again for the rise of the working class that brought the middle class to fruition, however with the decline in the favor of unionism does not potent for a revival of this same strategies that worked effectively in the past. The problems brought about by this new economy, of the great gaps between the rich and the poor and the decline of the middle class have yet to find answers in the politics of the day, even as in every country people point to the government as the origin of economic collapse. They might, however, point to the design and intention of the new robber barons in capitalizing on their wealth in the same way as their predecessors.