It is my opinion that learning about events of the past can prove valuable in coping with the events of the present. I'm currently reading a biography called The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon
. For those of you who've never heard of Joe Hill, he was a songwriter
who was particularly fond of taking popular hymns of the day and turning them into satirical calls for revolution. He worked with the International Workers of the World, the huge union that was created in reaction to the hellish working conditions at the turn of the last century.
I'm not far enough into the book to say how good it is yet, but I'm enjoying it so far. But while reading, I noticed something. See, the book has these statistics about the income gaps and the treatment of workers back then. Now, keep in mind, this is before World War I, when child labor was still something being fought over and worker welfare was horrific. 35,000 people were dying every year in industrial accidents. The Bad Old Days, am I right?
So of course, here I am, resting on my modern laurels and thinking smugly to myself how enlightened our current day is. But then I read this:"A federal study in 1915 found... 2 percent of Americans owned 60% of the nation's wealth."
And I thought, wait a minute. I dug around through my random tumblr ephemerata and went statistic digging. Now, I admit to not being all that bright in stats, so if anyone here sees any bull or misinformation, please let me know. But what I found was that (1
) the top 20% own over 80% of the nation's wealth now, (2
) "some current estimates are that the top 1% own more than 50% of the nation's wealth." Also, in the totally not-official realm of "stuff I heard from my friend," I am actually in the 30th percentile of wealth in this country because even though I am living in the land of rusty nails and rotten fiberglass, I still have a (just barely) positive net worth.
I have no words for how I feel about this. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to be volunteering at a local union working on the behalf of service, temp, and part-time workers, and suddenly I find myself quite motivated.