Anthony J. Gaughan,UPI - The economic data make clear why populism is the dominant theme of the 2016 campaign.
Although America has the largest economy in the world, real wages have not gone up since 1972 because most workers have experienced stagnating incomes for decades. Across the country middle-income Americans face a precarious economic future. Median income has fallen in over 80 percent of America's counties since 2000, a trend that is accelerating. Even mortality rates reflect growing income inequality. Poor and rural Americans now die at rates well above that of wealthy and urban Americans.
Meanwhile the rich just keep getting richer. A study by the Pew Research Center found that the median net worth of upper-income families is now 70 times greater than that of lower-income families. As of 2015, the 400 richest Americans had a combined wealth of $2.3 trillion. Over 75 percent of the nation's wealth is held by 10 percent of the population, and the gap between the rich and the middle class in the United States is the highest ever measured.
America has become a nation of pervasive economic inequality. It's no wonder, then, that the 2016 election has witnessed a populist uprising.
But class conflict does not flow only from the bottom up. It's also a top-down phenomenon. Since the 1980s, rich Americans have maximized their share of the nation's prosperity at the expense of the rest of the country. Adding insult to injury, a growing body of evidence suggests that many rich people today simply do not care about their fellow Americans. The old concept of noblesse oblige has declined among the wealthy to a disturbing degree.