"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it" - George Santayana
...so lets make some comparisons.
- "The Gilded Age" aka "the Roaring Twenties" prefaced the Great Depression in America and began as a result of the Civil War
‘The Gilded Age’ that followed The Civil War was characterized by westward expansion combined with a massive industrial extension made possible by new technologies like the gasoline engine and the increased mechanization of industries such as steel, textiles, farming and mining.
America is currently in the midst of two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and also and bit of a fuzzy conflict in Syria with IS. One could argue that since we've reached the Pacific Coast in our Westward expansion, we've turned to dominating other regions such as the Middle East and Latin America (see the Cold War and current conflicts in the Middle East as examples). This moot point aside, the rise of computers has undoubtedly brought about technology never before thought possible, leading to, among other things, the automation of many industries ("increased mechanization of industries").
- Many remember individuals such as Carnegie, Rockefeller, and JP Morgan as great business men, but there's more to the story
However, there is a controversial side to many of these men mostly forgotten to history. When Americans celebrate Gilded Age elites as exemplars of American Individualism, we often forget in their own time they were called robber barons. This derogatory phrase refers to the ways many industrialists maintained an aristocratic-like status in society through amoral and often illegal business practices that allowed their fortunes to grow at the expense of the greater social good.
I think this parallel is pretty easy to see. See the petrodollar, the current joke of an American election due to the power of mainstream media and elites/superdelegates to influence the results of elections, companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and the like making a killing off of "spying" on their users to "improve the ad experience" while also "selling" personal information (in quotes because I don't know the exact process, but its obvious that some exchange occurs) to third parties, etc.
- All of these practices are done at the expense of the masses
In fact, Mark Twain named this period ‘The Gilded Age’ to metaphorically describe how these few, immensely successful individuals and their opulent lifestyle as gilding our society, or as putting a thin layer of gold over an object to conceal the ugliness beneath.
I think this similarity is obvious as well. Income inequality is grow, the middle class is shrinking with 51% of America earning less than $30,000 a year, the income gap is as large as the largest gap during the Gilded Age, and the crisis of 2008 was only saved on a surface level with no real marked improvements. I'm sure others can think of more examples.
- These "robber barons" were made rich by exploiting the working class
Just beneath the golden surface of ‘The Gilded Age,’ most workers suffered in poverty despite working inordinate numbers of hours at difficult and often dangerous industrial or agricultural jobs. In fact, exploitation of these workers is a larger reason why robber barons were able to amass vast fortunes.
Arguably aside from the "dangerous industrial or agricultural jobs" that have largely been outsourced, many Americans have to work two jobs being "worked to the bone" and minimum wage these days is well below a living wage.
With all of this in mind, the same economists who predicted the crisis of 2008 are predicting another crash this year. The difference: in 2008, the lower/middle class suffered as the elites of the country artificially pumped it back up, wiping out the middle class into mounds of debt and allowing elites of the country to accumulate more wealth on top of a hollowed economy; today, there is "no more ammunition" to "pump" this economy back up when it falls as its "juiced up" to a maximum. That means this time when the economy collapses, it's going to be a "top-down" crash, taking down the upper class and dragging the middle class down with it due to the massive amount of debt it's already in from the first crash. The result seems eerily similar to the effects of the Great Depression.
My question to you, /v/economics, is basically am I crazy? I'm only a college student and I'm an anxious, paranoid mother fuck to begin with, but after listen to my grandpa tell stories about growing up during the Depression and hearing speculation of another one coming from many sources, I'm starting to get scared. I have virtually my whole life ahead of me, but with the way things are going it seems like my dreams of having a decent job, a modest house and a family I can support are going down further down the shitter each day. So what do you guys think? How screwed really are we? And what can we do to protect ourselves?
Giving credit where credit's due, this source I used came from this post on /v/Worldnews. Thanks for listening everyone