One Chart to Explain Politics Today


Wonk Blog: “Imagine everyone, as in everyone around the world, lined up based on how much they make. (This would be adjusted for how much that buys in their home country, but don’t worry too much about that). Well, that would let us set up a global income distribution. The richest people in the richest countries—and, for that matter, everywhere else too—would make up the global top 1 percent. Working-class people in rich countries would be around the 80th percentile for the world. Middle-class people in middle-class countries would be, you guessed it, around the 50th percentile. And so on, and so on. Now, when you add it all up, it turns out that nobody has done worse the past 30 years than the working-class in countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and France. Their inflation-adjusted incomes actually fell over this period. It was the richest people in the richest countries and, even more so, middle-class people in emerging-market countries who did the best. China, though, really belongs in a category all its own here. It’s that bump all by itself in the middle.”

“This chart is really a Rosetta stone for politics today—and not just in the U.S. Almost every rich country has their own anti-trade, anti-immigrant party. France has the National Front. Britain has UKIP. And the rest of Europe has an assortment of populist parties straddling the far-right and far-left. In all these countries, the simple story is that being an elite means buying into globalization whether you’re an elite of the center-right or center-left. So the people who feel like they’ve been left behind don’t feel like there’s anyone to represent their interests.”

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