Chronic pain. Unhappiness. Drug and alcohol abuse. According to economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, those are a few of the side effects of being a non–college educated adult in America. The other side effect: premature death. If we’re to understand what’s happening in today’s America, we have to understand what was already here: massive inequality. From the opioid pill mills along Interstate 95, to the flattened quality of living, to an exploding economic divide, to the unjustifiable wealth being pumped out by the tech sector, to the way those on one side of the divide look down on those on the other, to poisoned water supplies, to boarded-up factories, to CEOs making 278 times as much as the average employee; the story is always the same. The America of the twenty-first century is not merely leaving some groups behind, it’s quite literally killing them.

While many of us may be disappointed in the way the frustration and anger are expressed (Trumpism), it’s foolish to deny that for millions of Americans, the frustration and anger are wholly justified. People think the system is rigged against them because the system is rigged against them. Consider today’s America where many citizens have been making the same salary for years while inflation makes that salary worth less. Nowhere is that more clear than at the gas pump. Sure, part of that price hike is due to our fully merited decision to stand up to Putin’s invasion. But we all know there’s more to the gas prices than that one factor. And no one knows that better than the folks for whom those price hikes have a direct and immediate impact on their quality of life. Yesterday, we learned that BP had a remarkable quarter. Today, we learned that Shell profits nearly tripled as oil prices surged.

+ Part of this section is adapted from my book, Please Scream Inside Your Heart: Breaking News and Nervous Breakdowns in the Year that Wouldn’t End. The reviews from readers have been excellent. There’s also an audiobook with Peter Coyote as the main narrator. Trust me. You’ll love it