Yesterday, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein revealed how deeply afraid he is of our current scary “moment in history” in which Bernie Sanders’ proposals are being taken seriously. Perhaps Lloyd Blankfein lacks some historical perspective.
In this moment in history, 2016, America is at the crest of a period of rising economic inequality that has not been widening for more than three and a half decades. It is no exaggeration to say that the concept of the American middle class that our parents and grandparents had is no longer one that exists in the real world. It is a level of inequality that has not been seen in this country since the Gilded Age that preceded the Great Depression.
Is this moment in history, 2016, really as “dangerous” as Lloyd Blankfein—who recently became a billionaire—seems to believe?
On September 16, 1920, a wagon full of dynamite and 500 pounds of shrapnel exploded on Wall Street in front of J.P. Morgan & Co’s offices. Nearly 40 people were killed, and hundreds were injured. Police believe the bombing was the work of anarchists who had carried out a nationwide bombing campaign targeting powerful institutions and government officials. At that time, anarchism had a decades-long history as a powerful radical movement in America. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, America saw a series of incredibly bloody labor battles in which thousands of workers battled police and company thugs. These repeatedly resulted in police and hired muscle murdering strikers, union activists killing police, and bombings. Decades later, after heavy government persecution of Communists real and imagined, the social and political movements of the 1960s once again gave rise to a wave of violent radicalism that routinely used bombings, armed robbery, and arson to fight against the government, police forces, and associated institutions.
Now, we have a presidential candidate who would like to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to fund free college tuition and jobs programs. And a few years back protesters camped out in a park near Wall Street for a couple of months.
For billionaire Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, whose $68 billion company has more than doubled in value since it went public, 2016 is in fact a moment of historically remarkable safety and security. He should be more grateful.
These things don’t always last.