America may be billed as “the land of opportunity,” and perhaps at some point it was. But today, that just serves as leftover branding from an era long passed. Today, social mobility is low, and the wealth gap is at record levels. Consider the following two graphs from The Washington Post, with the first showing wealth disparity and the second showing a trend towards an even greater spread:

 

 

 

This is brought home in a recent article in USA Today showing the growing chasm between rich and poor firsthand – and how they’re bumping up against each other in uncomfortable ways:

In the second Gilded Age, the mansions get bigger, and the homeless get closer

LOS ANGELES – When she became president of the Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Realtors Association, Robin Greenberg wanted to do something for people who couldn’t afford any home, much less one like hers in the golden hills of Bel Air.

So every month for eight years, she and colleagues went to Skid Row or elsewhere downtown to feed the homeless.

Then, last December, she learned the homeless had come to her.

Before dawn on Dec. 6 a wildfire raced out of a parched ravine in Bel Air, scorching 422 acres, destroying or damaging 18 homes and forcing the evacuation of about 700 others — including Robin Greenberg’s.

Even more shocking than the fire’s damage was its cause: a portable stove at a homeless encampment right there in Bel Air.

A brush fire in the exclusive area of Pacific Palisades brought to light that the homeless problem in Southern California is not exclusive to downtown’s Skid Row.

The wildfire is an instructive tale of America’s second Gilded Age, a time when the kinds of excesses and extremes that once seemed to have been consigned to U.S. history have come roaring back.

Long article, but well worth reading.

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