Originally in Newsweek.

robot-welding-automation-factory

(Photo: Factory_Easy / Shutterstock)

Throughout America’s small towns and suburbs, you can see the ominous markers of a coming sea change. Empty storefronts. Gutted strip malls. Vacant shopping complexes.

Indeed, nothing captures America’s perverse economic picture better than the transformation happening in the retail sector. Brick-and-mortar retailers are hemorrhaging jobs: 90,000 since last October. That’s 15,000 lost jobs per month.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos, the founder of online retailer Amazon, has become the nation’s second richest man—and a virtual lock to be No. 1 within a few years, if not months. Bezos’s wealth has tripled in just over two years, a tidy $50 billion increase. That’s over $1.5 billion per month.

It’s the real-life embodiment of a Tom Tomorrow cartoon I saw years ago: the One Rich Guy Who Owns Everything. “Over the years, income inequality continued to rise,” the comic begins, “until finally, one rich guy owned as much as the rest of the planet combined.”

The strip was meant to be an extrapolation of wealth inequality to its most absurdly concentrated point. It was satire. But the more absurd thing is that we’re actually trending in that direction.

Bob Lord is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.