Why a Republican strategist thinks we’re in a new Gilded Age

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tags: Gilded Age, GOP



Everywhere he looks, Republican strategist and lobbyist Bruce Mehlman sees “eerie” parallels between the Gilded Age and today.

Mehlman produces quarterly reports about the political climate. In his latest, which he’s distributing to his clients today, he argues that “data is the new oil.” He likens Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Larry Page and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (who also owns The Washington Post) to captains of industry like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

“Back then you had iconic innovators who built these dominant companies and amassed great fortunes. You've got that again today,” Mehlman explained in an interview. “You saw income inequality spike. The last time it was as high for the top 10 percent as it is today was the Gilded Age. … In politics, you saw a rich few increasingly dominating spending to impact elections — similar to today.

Mehlman, who was the assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy under George W. Bush and the policy director for the House Republican Conference before that, outlines additional similarities — and the lessons that might be learned from them — over 36 PowerPoint slides:

● The economy shifted dramatically away from agriculture toward manufacturing from 1870 to 1920, just as it has moved away from manufacturing toward service over the past half century.

● The last time immigrants made up as large a share of the population as they do right now was also during the Gilded Age.

● President Trump’s win should be viewed partly as an aftershock of the Great Recession, just as the fear that lingered after market crashes in 1873 and 1893 affected the outcome of multiple elections.

● The country was intensely divided politically. In 2016 and 2000, the candidate who lost the popular vote won the presidency. The last time that happened was 1888 and 1876.




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