- Germany’s inequality problems began roughly when the country reunified in 1990. West Germany absorbed East Germany more easily than many predicted, and that created some of the socio-economic conditions today. But inequality is a much older issue in the United States. Modern income and wealth inequality in the U.S. has been creeping upward since the 1970s.
Donald Trump’s surprising electoral victory in 2016 was at least partly a political expression of that underlying dynamic. It is no coincidence that in the years before Trump’s election, the share in total income of the top 10 percent of all U.S. earners rose to just under 49 percent – a share surpassing that of any time during the Great Depression. This type of wealth inequality is a refrain in U.S. economic history that produces massive political change, of which Trump is likely just a precursor.