"I’ve spoken often about a Tale of Two Cities. That inequality – that feeling of a few doing very well, while so many slip further behind – that is the defining challenge of our time." So spoke New York's new Mayor-elect, celebrating his landslide victory Tuesday night.
The man soon to become New York’s 109th Mayor won an impressive victory – by some 49 percentage points – an electoral mandate if ever there was one. It was a very New York victory and a very New York mandate to be sure, but a victory and a mandate that transcend a single city. And, probably more than any other issue, it is the issue of inequality that was central to both victory and mandate - the issue the new Mayor rightly labeled "the defining challenge of our time."
We all know what he was referring to. Those of us who grew up in the Golden Age of post-war prosperity have watched as middle class incomes and middle class possibilities have eroded, as education has become increasingly inaccessible, as marriage and the stability that accompanies it have become more and more a luxury. And now one-half of the nation's total income goes to the top 10% of the population - and 23% of the nation's income goes to the top 1%.
Such is our sorry situation in 21st-century America.
Bill DeBlasio may or may not be able to make New York one city again. But he has identified, in the widespread yearning for a society that works for everyone, the issue of increasing inequality for the defining challenge that it now is.