December 19, 2014
We’ve just watched the Senate and the House — aided and abetted by President Obama — pay off financial interests with provisions in the new spending bill that expand the amount of campaign cash wealthy donors can give, and let banks off the hook for gambling with customer (and taxpayer) money.
What happened in Washington over the past several days sounds strikingly familiar to the First Gilded Age more than a century ago, when senators and representatives were owned by Wall Street and big business. Then, as now, those who footed the bill for political campaigns were richly rewarded with favorable laws.
Bill’s guest this week, historian Steve Fraser, says what was different about the First Gilded Age was that people rose in rebellion against the powers that be. Today we do not see “that enormous resistance,” but he concludes, “people are increasingly fed up… their voices are not being heard. And I think that can only go on for so long without there being more and more outbreaks of what used to be called class struggle, class warfare.”
Steve Fraser is a writer, editor and scholar of American history. Among his books are Every Man a Speculator, Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace and Labor Will Rule. His latest, The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power, will be published early next year.