People are mad.

There aren't enough high-paying jobs. Health care and education costs continue to rise. Home prices have dropped to 2003 levels and aren't moving. The stock market, which recently dropped to levels first seen in 1998, is increasingly manipulated by Wall Street insiders and their trading algorithms. Wages are stagnant. Washington is dysfunctional.

And yet corporations are booking record profits of $1.5 trillion a year as the superrich just get richer.

Americans are fed up. Both ends of the political spectrum have birthed activist groups and taken to the streets. On the right, the Tea Party is worried about government overreach and bailouts. On the left, the newer Occupy Wall Street movement rails against corporate greed and growing income inequality.

Even among moderates, sentiment is terrible. People are pulling out of stocks and corporate bonds and tucking their money in "safe" cash accounts and Treasury bonds offering about the same return as hiding it under a mattress.

Image: Anthony Mirhaydari

Anthony Mirhaydari

The one message that seems to resonate is that we're headed for a new recession -- and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.

But here's the thing: While there are surely deep, structural problems with the economy, hunkering down won't keep you safe. There's no rescue party coming. The driver of rising inequality has been a shift in the power balance between workers and businesses. Perhaps politics will eventually offer some remedy, such as the anti-China currency bill working its way through Congress with bipartisan support. But the root cause won't change quickly, if ever.

In the meantime, if you're not among the top 1%, the best advice is this: Act as if you are. This is particularly true if you're an investor. (And I'll have some specifics on how to do that at the end of this column.)

Return to capital

I explored the root cause of our problems in a recent column, "The real recession never ended." It boils down to the fact that job creation and wage growth have stalled as U.S. companies outsource, offshore and downsize to take advantage of cheap foreign labor.

We're still 6.6 million jobs short of our pre-recession level. And the median full-time male worker is making just $48,000 a year, the same as in 1969 in real, inflation-adjusted terms.

The fact that trading partners like China aren't playing fair, by holding down the value of their currency to make their exports artificially cheap, compounds the problem.

No wonder, then, that Nobel laureate Michael Spence finds that the some 98% of the 27 million net new jobs created in America between 1990 and 2008 were in what are termed nontradable sectors like education and health care -- areas where jobs can't easily be outsourced.

All our recent woes flow from this job and wage stagnation: the bubbles built on cheap credit; increasing debt, public and private; and the inescapable feeling the American standard of living is inexorably falling.

These reasons are also behind the rise in corporate profits and the growing gap between the superrich and the rest of us. As labor and sourcing costs have dropped, companies have seen profitability swell as they use low-cost manufacturing centers in Asia to supply high-cost goods to Europe, the United States and Japan. The top 1% benefit from this through their large investment holdings.

Now, even more jobs are threatened by this dynamic as innovators find new ways to create a single, unified global marketplace for labor. Websites like oDesk, which has doubled its business from last year, allow small businesses to benefit from virtual outsourcing by paying independent contractors around the world to complete specific tasks for as little as 10% of what they'd have to pay an employee. Workers are located mainly in the Philippines and India. There are others, including Freelancer.com and Mechanical Turk, owned by Amazon.com (AMZN, news).

What started with manufacturing jobs is now spreading to white-collar workers, including legal tasks, editing and computer programming.

Get mad, get even, turn a profit

For the typical U.S. worker, this is indeed a bleak outlook. But not all hope is lost.

The best solution is to join the ranks of business owners by creating a new product or service. I explored this topic in a column back in June ("What it takes to get really rich,") in the context of how it's becoming increasingly difficult to move up the economic and social ladder. In other words, the American Dream is harder to achieve.

The second-best option is to differentiate your "product" -- which is your labor -- as much as possible via specific, applicable training and education. Selecting the right industry helps, too. A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that so-called "interactional" work that relies on knowledge, expertise and collaboration should continue to be safe from low-cost competition in places like India. Examples are many jobs in investment banking, health care and management consulting.

It's worth noting that while the overall unemployment rate remains north of 9%, there's a big difference tied to education. Among those with less than a high school diploma, joblessness stands at 14%; it's just 4.2% for those with a bachelor's degree or higher.

Continue to the next page for more. Stocks included: Micron Technology (MU, news), Intuit (INTU, news), Federated Investors (FII, news) and IBM (IBM, news).