Compare and contrast the business and politics of the Gilded Age (late 1800's) with those of the present day.

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One area of comparison is the growth of income inequality between the rich and the poor. Today, the richest people in the United States are worth billions while those who work for them often live paycheck to paycheck. While politics can be argued as being less corrupt than they were during the Gilded Age, big business still controls both major parties through campaign contributions.

One major area of contrast is that today businesses cannot form monopolies, such as that formed by John Rockefeller with Standard Oil. Government closely scrutinizes every business merger to ensure that there is some level of competition in an industry. While only a handful of businesses control many major industries, there is still room for start-ups to grow and flourish. Another contrast is the protection granted both the consumer and worker against business owners who would put out unsafe products. There are federal consumer watchdog agencies who protect the public against unsafe food and drugs. Workman's compensation also exists for those who get hurt on the job; this did not exist during the Gilded Age, as workers were treated like they were expendable. Also, workers have to be paid a minimum wage; this did not exist during the Gilded Age either. While there are some similarities, the business climate in the United States has changed since the Gilded Age.

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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.

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The major factor that can be used to compare these two eras is the extent to which there is economic inequality that comes out of the nature of business in America.  In the Gilded Age, factory owners made huge amounts of money while an oversupply of low-skill workers created a situation in which the workers made very little money.  This is replicated today to some extent as "knowledge workers" can make a great deal of money while those who do low-skill jobs do not get paid well because of competition both from foreign countries and from all the other people in the US who lack the skills to make big money.

The main difference between the two eras is that politics today is much cleaner than it was in the Gilded Age.  While people claim that government is controlled by big businesses today, it is a much less direct form of control (if it exists) than there was in the Gilded Age.  In the Gilded Age, there was much more clear-cut corruption in which government officials were "bought" by the big corporations.  This does not exist in today's world where the media is always ready to expose any such dealings.

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