Sunday, July 29, 2007

New Gilded Age


During the Gilded Age of the last quarter of the 19th century, the country saw economic growth, industrial expansion, and unprecedented immigration. It was the period that gave rise to a new breed of super-rich industrialists and financiers. John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Henry Flagler all made their vast fortunes during the relatively brief twenty year period. They were collectively known as “Robber Barons” for their ruthless business deals and flamboyant lifestyles.

It was also a time of corrupt politics from City Hall to the federal branches. There were accusations of deals made in smoky back rooms, falsified ballots, and other shady dealings. The favoritism, bribery, kickbacks, inefficiency, waste and corruption were generally accepted as normal business. The negativity of the political scene brought about the sensationalized newspaper stories known as “Yellow Journalism”, which told of wild exploits by the famous and displaced real, factual news.

People came from all over the world for the opportunities those jobs in the big factories held. Nearly 10 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island, which was built in 1892 to accommodate the influx of humanity.

Fast forward one hundred years or so... The average annual compensation for a CEO of a S&P 500 company is $14.78 million, while the median annual household income in the U.S. is $46,326. So far, 257 companies have announced internal reviews, SEC inquiries, or Justice Department subpoenas related to stock option backdating. The richest Americans have seen their household income increase over 200%, while the middle income family saw a 15% increase (more info on the income gap.)

Favoritism, bribery, kickbacks, inefficiency, waste and corruption, once again describes our political system, while Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan dominate the news. Americans are in hock up to their eyeballs thanks to deceptive lending practices. The housing market and sub-prime mortgage meltdown may have longer term affects on the financial markets. Only time will tell.

It seems to me that we are living in a New Gilded Age.

You'll recall from your eighth grade American History class, the Gilded age was followed by the Progressive Era, which brought such “enlightenments” as Prohibition and income tax.

Ernest Stoneman - All I Got's Gone.mp3

Jim Smoak & the Louisiana Honeydrippers - My Last Dollar Is Gone.mp3

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver - Poor Boy Working Blues.mp3

Doye O'Dell - Lookin' Poor, But Feelin' Rich.mp3

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
George Santayana (1863–1952), U.S. philosopher and poet

17 Comments:

Blogger Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Congrats on becoming the Blog of Note!!!

I have a cat that could be this one's twin, except my Safflower has green eyes. I'll post a pic on my blog soon as she was going to be my next entry.

I enjoyed reading your post. DH and I have decided to live simply and hop off the red bus of living beyond our circumstances. It's a quieter life but one that is less stressful. Once a person starts opening their eyes to the beauty that doesn't have a price, one finds out how marvelous nature really is. :D

Bottom line: Peace-of-mind!!!

JJ

July 30, 2007 6:36 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

"You'll recall from your eighth grade American History class, the Gilded age was followed by the Progressive Era, which brought such “enlightenments” as Prohibition and income tax."
And Social Security, the Pure Food & Drug Act, an end to child labor, the beginning of industrial safety requirement, etc. Why slam the Progressive Era when it's exactly what we desperately need again now. Or am I misreading the quotation marks around "enlightenments"? Your comparison of the current day to the Gilded Age is all too apt; any other country would be in revolution by now, but Americans are so easy to buy off with TV, "news" of the Lohan-Hilton variety, and cheap goods from Wal-Mart & Costco....

Keep up the good fight, Ed!

July 30, 2007 9:34 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Hi JJ,
Thanks for jumping on the Bus again, and the kind words.

We have four cats, Shadow is mine (or more appropriately, I am his favorite.) He follows me around the house, shares a bowl of ice cream with me in the evening, and wakes me up when I've slept through the alarm. I'll be looking for your pic of Safflower.

You have summed up the secret in your last line: "Peace of mind"

July 30, 2007 9:39 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Greg,

Damn, it’s hard to get things by you, my friend!

I did not mean to slam the Progressive Era. You know, from past exchanges, that Prohibition is a sore subject with me.

You are exactly right about the good things that came from the Progressive era. Add the Suffrage movement, the 40 hour work week, and the strengthening of the labor movement to the list.

You are equally correct about the need for such action today. I, too, am amazed at how easily Americans are pacified by the official line and the cheap trinkets we are tossed.

July 30, 2007 9:55 AM  
Anonymous France said...

So long time ago since I played monopoly...

July 30, 2007 10:51 AM  
Blogger Sharm said...

Hi there,

You are chosen to represent your country in the first international blog
WUB (World United Bloggers)

The aim of this blog is to prove to the world that differences in language, religion,race and nationality do not make us hate each other and we can make this world better if we express our opinions with respect to others.

If you agree to join us please send e-mail with your nick name , age , country and your blog address to sharm_lover@hotmail.com where you will be sent an activation mail which makes you entitled to contribute in WUB, your name as one of the contributor will automatically be updated.Please read the rules before you start any posting in WUB where you will also find the aims of this WUB.

Thanks
Chief WUB,


Sharm .

July 30, 2007 10:55 AM  
Blogger Monster Library Student said...

Great post. It will be interesting to see where we are in 10 years.

July 30, 2007 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Wow, I thought you'd be a little more relaxed than your post would suggest after paddlin' around last week. I was in a relatively good mood till you reminded me how bad things are; then again I’ve learned to enjoy the “lemonade of life”.

Congrats on your blog's recognition. The bus is gettin’ kinda crowded; time to invest in that double-decker ;)

July 30, 2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger A Few Things That I like. said...

You're a cool history buff :P, I love history but I can never remember it, so im forced to repeat it =\

July 30, 2007 2:24 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Lucy dear,
I am sorry that today's post put a damper on your mood. You are right, after a week of great paddling on the Outer Banks, I should be posting much more up beat stuff.

July 30, 2007 4:35 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

a few things...,
There is a lot of knowledge to be gained through the events of the past.

July 30, 2007 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Ed,
I knew the gap between rich and poor had grown, but I had no idea it had grown this much! Here in Canada, the experts say the gap is even larger than in the U.S. Thanks for this post, and I mean that. Right now, I'm angry. I'm not angry with those who've accumulated all of the wealth. I'm angry with all of the middle and lower-income people who've (in many cases) spent their entire lives voting for the political and economic right. And, I'm by NO means a socialist. What the "H" ever happened to government for, of, and by the people???

July 30, 2007 6:49 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Dan, "what ever happened" indeed.

July 30, 2007 10:41 PM  
Blogger Shaun King said...

14 days before you wrote "It seems to me that we are living in a New Gilded Age," The New York Times wrote an article, "Age of Riches; The Richest of the Rich, Proud of a New Gilded Age."

July 31, 2007 1:45 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Shaun King,
Thanks for the heads up. I'll hunt up the article. I knew I couldn't be alone with this line of thinking.

July 31, 2007 7:07 AM  
Blogger Chisum Trail Mercantile said...

Hello - being a cat lover myself I just had to post. Our cats don't eat ice cream but they will eat pop-corn (go figure).

As for the "blue bus" - I have these visions of "classic rock-n-roll" having been played in there at some point and time.

Got any Clapton? Moody Blues?

Dawn

August 07, 2007 1:36 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Hi Dawn,

There was always plenty of classic rock-n-roll on the bus, and still is from time to time.

During the late '60s/early '70s I realized that much of the music that I enjoyed was the evolution of music that had started many decades before.

The files I post here are in the public domain, or I have permission from the artist to post them.

August 07, 2007 8:17 PM  

<< Home