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Robert Samuelson: America's Postindustrial Blues

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19.06.2017

Ever since Donald Trump's election, a cottage industry of politicians, journalists, scholars and commentators has sought to understand what motivates Trump supporters. Theories have ranged from globalization to a rebellion against Washington elitism to racism. But the true cause may have been overlooked: the "postindustrial society."

It has imposed on the economy a wage structure that systematically generates inequality between the majority of Americans and the upper middle class, roughly defined as top 20% with a threshold income of a bit more than $100,000. We have two new studies that demonstrate this, though neither explicitly uses the term postindustrial society.

Consider. From 1960 to 2014, the annual earnings, corrected for inflation, of men who are professionals and business executives rose 70%, reports Stephen Rose in a study for Third Way, a slightly left-of-center think tank. By contrast, annual earnings for male factory workers rose only 18% over the same period.

Not only are low-skilled........

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