UK Prime Minister Theresa May was invited to the White House on January 27 to be the first foreign leader to meet with the new American president, Donald Trump.
It’s always an honour to be the first invitee of the new president, and the timing couldn’t be better as the Western economic order is beginning to churn.
In the West, the past 70 years have been a relatively stable era with increasing wealth (although since the Reagan-era tax cuts, obscene inequality has become a destabilizing force) and social mobility has increased dramatically since the creation of the internet.
This combination could prove extraordinarily useful to motivate leaders to provide the kind of leadership required of the times — or 2017 could prove to be the pivotal moment in the unravelling of the Western democracies.
President Trump wasn’t elected U.S. president because American citizens were bored by the Democrats.
Americans voted Trump/Pence to overthrow the existing plutocracy in Washington, not to overthrow foreign governments.
Regardless how many Middle Eastern conflicts the West has prosecuted, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. But this time the problems are here at home, not in some faraway country.
Americans voted for Barack Obama (2008 and 2012) and now Donald Trump (2016) in large part to stop the unfolding economic disaster in the West. Britons may have held similar ideas to American voters about a sustainable economic plan when they voted for Brexit.
The chart below (from 2010) reveals the bottom 80 percent of Americans share just 7 percent of the nation’s wealth, but it’s much worse now (in 2017) and this phenomenon is no longer confined to the United States.
That trend will not change until politicians are bigger than the challenges that confront them, and actually do something about the record inequality sweeping the West.
It’s not a call to ‘do something, anything, anything at all’ — as some so-called ‘solutions’ might be worse than the problem.
But what citizens of the Western nations require is an acknowledgement by politicians of the sheer scale of the problem, and some initial steps to slow the rapid transfer of wealth away from the bottom three quintiles to the top 1 percent. (Even tiny baby-steps are preferable to the decades-long stony silence on the matter)
Inequality ignored, will only result in citizens ‘giving up’ on their governments and ‘giving up’ on democracy — and we know how that will end. Badly. For everyone.
Including powerful politicians who serve for amazingly short stints of time in office. Once you’re in politics, four years pass by like a long summer!
Today’s toxic combination of ultra-low taxes on the rich and unrestricted globalization aren’t working for 3/5ths of the population. In 10 years, it won’t be working for 4/5ths of the population. And let’s remember, all of them are voters.
Here’s how that looks
In 2016, more than 50 percent of the world’s wealth was owned by the 1 percent.
By 2030, more than 70 percent of the world’s wealth will be owned by the 1 percent.
By 2045, more than 85 percent of the world’s wealth will be owned by the 1 percent.
Put another way; Do you really want to live in a world where 8 billion people are fighting over the then-remaining 30 percent of the world’s wealth?
Can you imagine what it’s going to look like in 2045 when 9 billion people are fighting over the then-remaining 15 percent of the world’s wealth?
At that time, you’d better be living on an island in the mid-Pacific that doesn’t appear on any map, in a castle with 100-metre high concrete walls.
I respectfully suggest to Prime Minister Theresa May and President Donald Trump that if inequality isn’t addressed this year, it’ll be too late. Just look for a remote island in the Pacific Ocean… now, before the rush begins.
The time involved in getting new legislation passed, combined with the lag time involved for it to take effect during the following fiscal cycle, is years after the day it is first discussed.
Let’s hope that January 27, 2017 will come to be known as, ‘The day the decline of the bottom-three quintiles was halted and reversed’ by these two great leaders.