The hyper-revving of the engine of mass-market consumerism arguably made life seem easier for some families. Free shipping, fierce competition among mega-retailers, the rise of online shopping, and money-losing delivery start-ups: These trends assuredly made “stuff” cheaper and more accessible for millions of customers, particularly relatively rich ones in urban areas.
But lower-income consumers have faced higher rates of inflation than upper-income consumers. Retailers pivoted to the one-percenters and left the 99 percenters behind, and who could blame them? Businesses go where the money is. The cost of services—elder care, preschool, veterinary care, dentistry, a college degree—sucked up every penny working-class families had, and more. Cheap baby clothes are nice, but publicly financed day care would be nicer.
The 2010s were a decade that left families fragile, unequal, and divided. These years made clear, if it wasn’t already, that the system is rigged for big businesses and the already-rich. They demonstrated that even a very good economy does not necessarily work for the middle class. The 2010s showed how bad everything could feel when everything was going great. This decade, we made it to late capitalism. We became late capitalism. We are late capitalism.