Have Americans Forgotten About the Income Gap?


In a week that marked the fifth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse that sent the American economy tail spinning into a recession, a majority of the country’s public sees governmental policy as tailoring to the wealthy and large banks and corporations. It seems like they are right.

So if that is the case, and America knows it, what gives? In the midst of the widest income gap since shortly before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the American public has fallen into a reluctant acceptance of the status quo and has failed to properly organize it’s points for regulatory support before Congress.

In the past, economic recoveries have been reliant on a strong middle class applying its purchasing power. Following the onset of the Great Depression, the government responded by passing laws that benefited and supported the middle class, responding to an increasing culture of protest epitomized by the march on Washington by WWI veterans not receiving adequate pension. In the decades following, the typical populist response to addressing a government grievance was to gather and capture the headlines. Thanks to the exponential advance of technology today however, the image of a protester before a courthouse or government building is more diluted than ever.

Quite simply, the media spotlight is dimmer than ever before. The Occupy Wall Street movement fizzled amongst a lack of direction, and the American public noticed. So, despite continuously sharp negative views on Wall Street, a sense of acceptance towards the reality of the income gap has also become a byproduct of failed populist pushes. It’s not that people are any less angry. It’s that the old tried-and-true methods to build capital in the struggle against income inequality don’t work like they used to.

The push to turn dissatisfaction with the government's relationships with big corporations and financial institutions must therefore come from other conventional means. Organized labor has, for example, historically played a role in supporting the working class; the dilution of union strength looks to march step by step with increasing financial deregulation. They have shown the capital and asset ability to increase worker productivity, spending, and the minimum wage, among other indicators or economic standing. 

The issue at hand is that the government seems to have sided against the average middle-class American. Or at least, that is the impression. And with media coverage no longer following the algorithm that directly leads to support for the populists' ideals, the best approach to turn popular dissatisfaction with government policies into results must shift back towards less soluble tactics. The spotlight is no longer enough to turn eyes to the subject.