The most important comparison that exists between the first Gilded Age (late 1800s) and what some are calling today's second Gilded Age is income inequality. The emergence of the mega-rich that occurred in the first Gilded Age with men like Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Morgan, and Carnegie, men who built fortunes while many people struggled to make a living wage, has been repeated with the billionaires of today, as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett amass vast fortunes while the lower class still struggles with low wages in service employment. The economic gap between the wealthy and poor grows daily. Additionally, the demarcation between the lower and middle class continues to shrink.
Quite a few contrasts exist between these two periods. In the first Gilded Age, monopolies and "trusts" were prevalent, and these strategies protected the wealth of the rich. Today, laws protect the people against these corrupt business devices. The politics of the first Gilded Age depended upon bribes and business-friendly presidents who supported the big businesses of Rockefeller and the others. Furthermore, industrialization drove the first Gilded Age. Workers moved to cities to work in factories and make a living wage. Deindustrialization drives the second Gilded Age, as technology, research, and development make the fortunes of the wealthiest. Many unskilled labor jobs today are sent overseas to China, Vietnam, Thailand, and the like, and many American workers cannot become gainfully employed. Foreign automobile manufacturing has become commonplace, taking even more jobs away from American citizens. Lastly, the workforce of the first Gilded Age was driven by unions and strikers. Workers were fighting for unification in order to limit hours worked and improve pay and conditions. Many of today's workers are "free agents" and are unprotected by unions, often resulting in poorer working conditions and lower pay.