Extreme inequality: extreme politics
The last couple of weeks have been pretty grim for those of us interested in reducing inequality in the world. Donald Trump’s victory is worrying and depressing, but the US election result also seems to confirm what rampant inequality can do, especially where a credible progressive response is absent. In the US the gap between rich and poor is the highest it has been for at least 100 years. Working class and middle class Americans have seen their incomes stagnate or decline. A significant proportion of the US population clearly feels ‘left behind’. So the sight of a billionaire property developer presenting himself as the voice of ordinary Americans is astonishing, but his rhetoric – bringing back the jobs and making America great again was enough to edge him into the White House.
At the Centre for London annual conference last week US academic Benjamin Barber (President and Founder Global Parliament of Mayors project) said that Trump ‘was on the wrong side of history’, noting that urban areas in the US overwhelmingly voted for the Democrats, that the future is made in cities and that cities will work together to tackle the most pressing global problems: inequality and climate change, despite the new occupant of the White House. Although Mr Barber’s optimism was welcome many London delegates thought Trump, even if he proves to be a one term, incompetent reactionary, could make a lot of things a lot worse for a lot of people. And of course it's not only America where reactionary, populist political movements have won recently.
So for London we have no choice but to re-double our efforts to get our city to change course: towards a fairer future, to deal with the problems caused by extreme and excessive wealth and to build a fairer, more equitable society. If London can show the way then maybe we can offer some hope to our American cousins. Inequality is the defining social problem of our age and cities are where we will win or lose the struggle for greater equality.
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