“What he left behind in this term was a ruined America—a nation that had never been so divided since the Civil War.” In June this year, the French newspaper Figaro published an article listing the current crisis facing the United States, pointing out that the policy orientation of American leaders led to the emergence of “American secession”. Six months later, especially the chaos of the U.S. election proves that this judgment is not an overdone.
Today’s America is densely covered with pain points. The epidemic snowball, street violence, political party confrontation… 2020 is coming to an end, and the tearing pain of American society has increased. Reuters lamented that a divided America will be difficult to heal.
The first thing to bear is the widening gap between rich and poor. According to the latest research report of the Pew Research Center this year, income inequality in the United States continues to rise, the gap between rich and poor is staggering, and the socio-economic foundation of American democracy is weakening.
According to a report released by the American Policy Institute (IPS) at the end of November, from the outbreak of the epidemic in the United States in March to November 24, the wealth of 650 billionaires in the United States rose by more than $1 trillion, accumulating nearly $4 trillion. In contrast, ordinary American families have suffered a serious financial crisis due to the ineffectiveness of the U.S. government in fighting against the epidemic, and tens of millions of people have been unemployed.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders said on a social network recently that about 26 million Americans did not have enough food on Thanksgiving, and about 40 million Americans were at risk of being evicted (landlords or banks). Nearly 38 percent of Americans can’t even afford $500 in cash without going to pawnshops or borrowing money, according to a 2020 Harris online poll. The Washington Post commented that “the COVID-19 epidemic has brought about the most uneven recession in modern American history”.
This can’t help but make many people think about the so-called “American Dream”. In the United States, can anyone really get equal opportunities to move upwards as long as they have a flexible mind and a hard body? Obviously, this is not the case.
In fact, since the rise of neoliberalism in the early 1980s, American financial capitalism has been running all the way to profit all over the world. The structure of the U.S. economy has begun to change, and wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the rich and high-income elites with capital. According to an article on the website Business Insider last September, according to the report on the Forbes 400, the total net worth of the 15 richest American families reached $618 billion. From 1989 to 2018, the net wealth growth of the bottom 50% of households in the United States was basically zero.
The impact of wealth concentration is directly reflected in the political discourse. Martin Wolff, the chief economic commentator of the Financial Times, recently wrote that money plays a vital role in American politics. One study confirms that the views of the richest 10% of the population in the United States largely determine policy.
These data show people an “richer, the poorer the poorer, the middle class shrinks” in an America, explaining from one side why American society is so angry and why populism rises. In particular, the middle-class population, which is the stabilizer of the American society, shrinks to less than 50%, greatly weakening the social foundation of American democracy and exacerbating the political polarization of the United States.
It has been seen that in this year’s election, the two parties in the United States fought a “war of words” over the election results, demonstrations broke out in many places, people with different political positions took to the streets to vent their dissatisfaction, and even violent clashed, which made some American media sigh that “two Americas” appeared.
The widening gap between rich and poor and people’s anger are accelerating social polarization in the United States. Elite and grassroots values are becoming more and more difficult to bridge; racial discrimination and cultural conflicts are getting worse and worse… This year’s U.S. election can be said to have concentrated on exposing the pain of American society.
Winter has arrived. For Americans, hope seems to be rare. If there is no fundamental change in the domestic political ecology of the United States, the deep contradictions in the United States will remain unresolved, and the tearing of society may become more and more intense. The next administration of the United States should listen to the advice of the Figaro: the first condition for a great power is national unity, and the top priority is to “make America a United States again”. International Review Critics)