For the past couple of years, inflation has been a heavy weight on the minds of the American people. Both food and service prices are going up, but wages aren’t following along with this trend. With the upcoming election, many people are factoring in the economic state of the world from the past few months when considering who to vote for. Many Americans are already worried about the current state of the economy, and it’s hard not to feel uneasy about the future of the economy given the state of things now. 

Currently, many people are talking about many different developed nations falling into 

late-stage capitalism. Late-stage capitalism is a term coined in the early 1900s by German economist Werner Sombart, and it relates to the cycle of capitalism. Sombart also coined the idea of having 4 stages of the economy, which span from the early Middle Ages to modern history. Now, late-stage capitalism is more commonly used to refer to corporate greed, especially at the expense of middle-class Americans. With ideas of late-stage capitalism on people’s minds, it’s no surprise that many people are worried about what’s in store for the future of capitalistic countries. 

Right now, for the first time since around early 2021, the American economy in general is going through a cooldown. The inflation rate is dropping, and the unemployment rate is near what it needs to be, but this doesn’t mean the state of things is okay. People who were suffering are still suffering, and the rich have only gotten richer. It is estimated that billionaires are now 34% richer than they were in 2020. The top five richest men in the world nearly doubled their wealth, while nearly five billion of the poorest people lost money. If the system continues to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor, it will only be so much longer until change is demanded. 

However, it is unlikely that the American economic system will ever have complete failure. The business cycle, which is used to show the ups and downs of the economy, factors in that an economy will never be perfect. Recessionary periods and inflation periods are inevitable. Not just this, but the American government has fiscal policies they can implement, like increased taxation or government spending to give the economy a needed brake or boost. While the American government will not fall into an economic collapse anytime soon, increased longevity of inflationary or recessionary periods could be likely. 

While it is undeniable that a wage increase is needed, it is not simple to implement. Wages must increase in order to keep up with constantly fluctuating prices, but that still can cause its own handful of issues. When wages increase, people spend more. Not necessarily because they want to, but because now they can buy things they needed to buy before. This increase in spending causes big corporations to increase their prices as well, since they will need to have a bigger supply. This system often traps people into their social class. They may have more money, but 

they are also having to spend more money, which puts them right back into their original problem. 

One big issue that has led the United States to becoming increasingly aware of this problem is mass overconsumption. When stimulus checks were given to stimulate the economy during COVID-19 lockdowns, people spent a lot of money at once. People were spending much more than they were saving, which led to increased inflation rates. However, not everyone is spending, and for those who already are living paycheck to paycheck (which is around 78% of Americans according to Forbes), these increasing prices are only making these issues worse. 

It doesn’t help that America also has a culture that fosters overconsumption. It is blatantly obvious to see on different social media platforms, like TikTok and Instagram, that people are being encouraged to partake and buy things for many “microtrends.” A huge example of this can be seen with the takeoff of Stanley cups in the past few months. It was quite common to see people have many of these cups, which is very ironic because they are supposed to be reusable cups that replace the need for packs of plastic water bottles. However, people bought so many of them that the benefit of them being reusable seems to have gotten smaller. It is ironic that a product’s selling point could be so obviously thrown aside due to the trendiness of it. Now, many thrift stores are seeing an increase in these Stanley cups on their shelves. 

My friends, my peers and I are worried. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford to buy a house if things stay the way they are. People with college degrees are struggling to afford rent on “cheap” apartments. Wages haven’t increased proportionately to the increase in prices like rent and groceries. If they were proportionate, the federal minimum wage would be $21.50 according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. In Indiana, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. At its cheapest, the average rent for a one-bedroom in Indianapolis is around $900. A person making minimum wage ($7.25) would have to work around 125 hours (which is five straight days) to pay their rent. This doesn’t include any other expenses. If a person paid minimum wage and worked a 40-hour work week, they would have around $290 a week. This would be around 160 hours a month, which would give them $1,160. After paying rent, this person would have $260. This means any loan payments, excess bills like lighting and heating, groceries, and any other necessities would have to come out of this money. It also means this person would have to work 69,000 years to become a billionaire. It is demeaning to try to pretend that this is fair. It is cruel that the average person must work like this while many of our richest people got there by taking advantage of others. The top 1% own more wealth than the entire middle-class population, and yet we are expected to feel as though we can obtain the same amount of wealth by “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.” 

If the original goal for capitalism was to have a freer market with equal opportunities for all to make a profit, then we’ve much surpassed that. Massive corporations and CEOs can line their pockets and lie to the American people; meanwhile, most people cannot afford to make mistakes. 

It is worrying that we can continue to see rich people benefiting from this system and call it “good” while ignoring those who are suffering. There is no reason why there should be as big of a gap between the average American and the top 1%. The gap will only continue to increase if we don’t do anything, but making larger scale changes to the American economy seems unlikely. 

As it stands, it’s not like the economy will fall apart tomorrow. While capitalism in America may be unfair, it is secure, and it is unlikely for an unexpected collapse to happen any time soon. However, necessary changes that benefit the average citizen and consumer must happen, and they need to happen soon to avoid further economic strain. 

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