There are some truths so hard to face, so ugly and so at odds with how we imagine the world should be, that nobody can accept them. Here’s one: It is obvious that a class system has arrived in America — a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility. But nobody wants to admit: If your daddy was rich, you’re gonna stay rich, and if your daddy was poor, you’re gonna stay poor. Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anybody can make it; the only limits are your own limits. Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world — just no longer true. Culturally, and in their daily lives, Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can’t bear to tell themselves isn’t real. It’s the most dangerous lie the country tells itself.
Meanwhile, the Times reports:
Largely insulated from the country’s economic downturn since 2008, members of Congress — many of them among the “1 percenters” denounced by Occupy Wall Street protesters — have gotten much richer even as most of the country has become much poorer in the last six years, according to an analysis by The New York Times based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group.
A huge part of the conservative/establishment media project will be devoted to explaining the collapse of the middle-class is a good thing — it’s the Bell Curve-style IQ stratification that maximizes efficiency, all the awesome modern conveniences like Facebook an flatscreens make up for it, etc.
Has arrived? Where the hell has Esquire been all these years?
Imagine all of that coming to pass in short order, but with lots of drones.
Now it’s truly Dystopia.
It’s the beauty of a closed loop America exceptional-ism world view. I have discussions all the time with less informed people about the world outside the borders of the United States, and they always believe we have the best internet, best cable, best cars, best whatever since we are America. I wish I had a phone plan like my buddies in Europe have. I wish I had the cable speeds they have for the prices they pay. I wish I had the French healthcare system.
But simply because we are America, we have the best and in the cheapest possible way despite all evidence to the contrary.
It’s always a good thing unless it affects them negatively.
There’s plenty of social mobility in America still. It’s just mostly downward.
At least there is goodness in the world.
I hate to give the Washington Post publicity but it’s too good a story to let that get in the way. It made me smile.
Man returns $10K gambling winnings that was lost at Los Vegas Airport.
He said he returned it to be an example to his children. When was the last time you heard that in the news?
I don’t get it. I post good news and I’m in moderation? Really?
We really need to go through another Great Compression (no, not that kind of compression).
An SEC Advisor has a theory that we poor folks and the wealthy spend most of our time doing the same things now, we just have different levels of comfort and security (like, none).
I suspect it was using the word “gam*ling.” Almost any word related to betting like cas*no or roule**e will put you in moderation.
Yes indeed….it does explain why you hear so much about how “class warfare doesn’t help anybody”, etc. The class war is over and the 1% won quite some time back. But it’s all good, since we now have in place machinery for surveillance and repression for which old Stalin himself would salivate.
If we’re going to turn it around, we’re going to have to start with some basic economic literacy for the masses. For starters, people need to learn that the whole “job creators” bullshit is just that – bullshit. The truth is that workers are “wealth creators.” Rich people don’t “create jobs” out of the goodness of their hearts, or because of tax cuts. They hire people when they need them; i.e. when demand increases. The workers are the ones who enable wealthy people to become and stay wealthy. (Feel free to hum the Internationale here.)
I can’t watch or listen to political shows anymore because this “job creator” nonsense gets thrown out there so often and never swatted down. It makes me insane, because the opposite is so clearly the truth that you’d think even a moron with a single digit IQ could see it. All you have to do is imagine a big pile of money sitting there, and apply your knowledge that non-living things don’t sexually reproduce, and you know that that fucking pile of money isn’t going to get any bigger if it just sits there.
I don’t know how to break through the media blockade with the message that the job creators have no clothes, but that’s what needs to happen; if we were successful in getting people to think about the reality rather than the fairy tale, all else would follow. If we don’t succeed in getting people to see the reality, well, then things will just continue on as they have.
Also, too…it’s all good because we’ll always have imaginary salad bars at Applebee’s, which makes everything okay and indeed the best of all possible worlds. We may certainly look forward to several columns in which David Brooks, without any undue Hayekian modesty, will tell us so in several hundred well-chosen words. I can hardly wait.
But Brees set the pigskin chucking record, so, like, who cares?
@AxelFoley: Yeah, this was pretty much my reaction too. And then the idiot talks about “the utter collapse of the black lower middle class in the age of Obama” and all I can do is wonder where the author lived during the last thirty years.
One of Elvis Costello’s best songs, by the way.
I have to wonder though………how true was this ever? I mean, was there formerly much more mobility between the classes in this country, or was it largely a myth all along?
Also: nice quote for the headline.
@John Revolta: Yes, there was a lot more mobility. If you just think about the GI Bill, even – a sharecropper’s son could go to college and become a doctor, lawyer, engineer. There was a lot of mobility from poor and lower middle class to upper middle class. Not nearly as much to the very top, but then again, 1% was only 1 out of a hundred back then, too.
Curse you, tongue person!!
Yeah, I guess that’s so………….I mean, it certainly seems that way when you look back…….a hundred or so years ago there hardly WAS any middle class. Still, anecdote is not evidence and all……… I’m gonna look this up.
Oh, I don’t think they’re at that point yet. They’re still in the denial phase. To wit:
And then this guy actually tried to contest the obvious by citing the Heritage Foundation’s bullshit.
Wingnuts fervently believe that these things are true, and in their world, belief trumps fact every single time.
Finally, a rich American destroys the fiction that rich people create the jobs
Fuckin’ retarded cudlips….dumbass cattle.
Dont you get it yet DougJ? the “freed” market is an ecophagy worse than grey goo.
an’ the conservatives like Sully and Razib Khan that are pimping the heritabilty of IQ and race are pants pissing afraid of the heritability of political affiliation and IQ.
this ironing is delicious.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
@John Revolta: A hundred years ago there wasn’t the middle class that we think we have today. That was before the New Deal, WW2, and things like the GI bill. I believe 100 years ago would be classified as the Gilded age. 50 years ago, on the other hand, there was a lot more mobility.
The prophet Nostradumbass
@Bubblegum Tate: The 60 Minutes story the first image in that article comes from really was heartbreaking.
Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
Well, as Public Employees are the new T-bone steak eating strapping welfare bucks, we’ll hear that if it wasn’t because they have to pay for greedy lazy guilt pensions, the job creators would be creating the jobs to increase social mobility.
Villago Delenda Est
Certainly not from Mitt “instead of risking my precious ass in my generation’s war, I did ‘missionary work’ out of a mansion in Paris” Romney.
His sons served, btw, by campaigning for him. No risking their precious asses in Iraq, no siree!
I think everyone in America should be required to live abroad for a year or two, or at least learn to really speak a foreign language. I realize this will never happen, but just imagine how different things could be if people had broadened their horizons a bit.
30 years ago, most state universities were nearly free for in-state students, and some of them (UC Berkeley, UCLA, U Va) were fully competitive with the best private schools. A kid from a poor background who made the grade could get a solid education and join the middle class without taking on a mountain of crippling debt.
Of all the factors that have killed social mobility in the US, allowing universities to become vastly more expensive is the stupidest and most self-destructive.
Funny how being privy to inside information, while exempting yourself from insider-trading laws, can improve the rate of return on your stock portfolio. And they probably think they are geniuses.
And a big Fuck You to the selfish jerks who benefitted from the GI Bill and the era of nearly-free public universities, then pulled up the ladder and sneered “soshulist”, rather than pay forward for the next generation to have the giant hand-up that they enjoyed.
This. (And US military bases don’t count).
The Repuke party and the mainstream misinformation media would be devastated by the resulting loss of patronage. And Fox News would be out of business.
Ignorance is big business in America.
Yes oddly enough the last time we had huge income inequality, little if any regulation, no union participation, etc was back in the times of the robber barons, roughly from the late 1800’s through the 1920’s or so. We also had a very small middle class comparatively, and not a lot of economic mobility. This is what our conservative friends have been pushing for since the late 50’s, and have been able to put into action beginning with Reagan.
Though not many people know this, much of conservative leadership, like Bill Buckley and the like actually have advocated for the destruction of a strong middle class.
Their reasons are fairly simple. If you have a thriving middle class, that actually achieve a decent level of economic, and financial security, then those people start turning their attention to aspects of culture like economic fairness, racial and gender equality, the environment etc. This, the cons believe, makes for a less stable governing paradigm. It also makes for people that are more educated and informed, which means that they are less likely to be easily controlled by propaganda and the like. Most importantly they fear that having security and extra time might lead to political participation.
On the other hand if you are constantly concerned about just making ends meet,and have little job security, it is much easier to manipulate you into voting against your own interests. They can appeal to your lizard brain, and prey on your fear and insecurities and make you believe that the problem is teachers unions, and Queers, and brown people etc.
They are right that such actions work, and furthers their ability to keep political power. That is until they finally go to far. History is replete with the corpses of the rich and powerful that weren’t bright enough to see their demise coming. They always keep grabbing for more power, and more wealth, certain that it will never come back to bite them. Eventually, the worm turns, but it usually comes with a lot of ugliness attached. My guess is that this time will be no different in this country, and quite possibly on a near global basis. The question then becomes who rises to be the transformational leader. Do we get another FDR, or another Hitler, or both?
Cheaper technology really is a mitigating factor, though, when considering stagnating incomes.
I don’t think all of those conservative justifications are being offered in bad faith, and a few of them – I’m thinking of Tyler Cowen’s “great stagnation” framework – make a lot of sense.
They knew the importance of an educated citizenry. From the University of California’s original charter, March 5, 1868:
Sec. 14. For the time being, an admission fee and rates of tuition, such as the Board of Regents shall deem expedient, may be required of each pupil, except as herein otherwise provided; and as soon as the income of the University shall permit, admission and tuition shall be free to all residents of the State; and it shall be the duty of the Regents, according to population, to so apportion the representation of students, when necessary, that all portions of the State shall enjoy equal privileges therein.
Sounds like the intent was to provide a free university education to any qualified Californian, not an ever-increasing expensive one to only the wealthy elite.
Yeah I wrote about the death of the American Dream when I answered Gene Marks’ wretched “If I Were A Poor Black Kid” column.
Americans are really attached to their fantasies, and there’s a reason these fairy tales persist: they feel good, and there’s always the outlier or two who “makes it” and keeps hope alive. But the truth is, the deck has always been stacked in favor of the wealthy. We know this.
@moderateindy: no. its how the freed market works.
with abundant resources the “freed” market raises the the “boat”, growing the middle class. the overall human condition improves. with resource starvation the market turns on the middle class and cannabilizes it, and GINI and the inequality gap grow exponentially.
the “freed” market is WAI.
at least from the perspective of the overclass.
It’s a nice theory Samara, but I think it’s way more complex than that.
For example: I think you could make a good argument that the ten largest banks in USA would have been completely wiped out in 2008 if the free market had been allowed to work its way out. Only government intervention saved them. This is also true for GM and Ford etc. A whole lot of major corporations would have died three years ago in a genuine free market.
I suspect a lot of the protection of the too big to fails is really crony capitalism and nothing to do with free markets.
In other words Samara you can make a damn good case that the middle class was raped to prop up the insolvent and over-leveraged corporatocracy.
And it was your corrupt US government that was rapist-in-chief. i.e. the best government money can buy.
slim's tuna provider
So, who has ideas about how to fix it? The conditions that led to the original Great Compression ain’t coming back. And how to get any traction towards solidarity within the 99%, given that so much divides us?
@Jennifer: I’m beginning to think that this period, a period my parents grew up in, is an aberration in history. What really pisses me off is how many of parent’s friends don’t realize that the success and comfort they now have is as much a result of government policies as it is their own hard work and want to fuck everyone else over — the GI Bill, SS, Medicare, health & safety regulations, etc.
@THE: dont be sillie Spock.
the “freed” market is resource constrained.
it is teleologically incapable of improving the general human condition, because social justice can ONLY be delivered as side-effecting within the paradigm.
disprove my thesis.
give me an example of how the “freed” market could “eat the rich”.
And not just the bankstahs.
the banks were effectively holding the American economy hostage.
It would have eaten the rich in 2008. Big time and totally.
It’s thanks to your government that the bankster CEOs get to keep their bonuses.
It wasn’t the free market that bailed out AIG and made the creditors good at 100 cents in the dollar.
Even without the Fed, the banking system would have totally imploded in 2008. No one with outstanding debt-due would have survived.
Think how much crap paper the Fed took on its balance sheet at 100% of nominal. Just the paper of Fannie and Freddie. plus All the mortgage backed securities.
Interest rates held down at almost zero now for years. Still no recovery? What’s wrong Samara? Too many insolvent corporations that should have been cleared out through bankruptcy. But the collapse would have wiped out all the bondholders. All the stockholders. Pyramids of paper wealth would have become worthless.
Yet that is what a true free market would have done.
The best Capitalism money can buy. Elements within the free market try to modify all aspects of their their environment to their competitive advantage.
Cheryl from Maryland
@Joe Buck: Agreed. This country is not investing in its people.
They can try, but if they succeed it’s crony capitalism. Not free market capitalism. You can’t privatize the profits and socia1ize the losses and call it a free market.
If you really claim to believe in the market, you have to accept the judgment of the market, even when the market says no. Crony capitalists are fair-weather capitalists. In bad times their real faith is “socia1ism for the rich”.
I think we’re agreeing. Am just noting that in an actual free market system, entities see controls that they can adjust that will improve their position in the competitive environment, and they don’t see major functional differences between “government” and “non-government” knobs – they can all be used to maximize shareholder value.
What I find interesting about the ‘pulling up of the ladder’ is most often ignored or intentionally misrepresented.
The GI bill & much of the public institutions that made America great were not instituted by the ‘greatest generation’. They were all in place FOR those guys – put there by their parents. It was the so-called greatest that yanked the ladder up.
Granted, the boomers set fire to the ladder & are pissing on the ashes but we really should give credit where credit is due.
Thars your problema….
People believe everyone can be rich; like Joe the Plumber, of unemployed, unlicensed, bankrupt fame.
Paul in KY
@Mark S.: You can say ‘baccarat’ though! That is toney gaming that would never stoop to Internat shenanigans.
Paul in KY
@Joe Buck: University of Kentucky has been obsessed the past 20 or so years with becoming a ‘top tier research university’. They have jumped up the tuition something awful.
I think it is a shame, educating your citizens (economically) is much more noble endevour than being a fucking quasi-Cornell (as if we’d ever get to that level).
Paul in KY
@moderateindy: Also the more poor people, the easier it is to find cheap servents.
Don’t ever forget that.
@Bill Arnold: meh. semantics. crony capitalism is a natural emergent property of “freed” markets– like regulatory capture and cartels.
the “free” market has never existed, and cannot exist except in theory.
jake the snake
Maybe the first thing you have said the makes any sense.
Free markets are an object of faith, like virgin births and
holy relics. Yes, Virginia, there is a free market.
Which Adam Smith already warned about.
So how about you fund elections 100% from the public purse and make political donations of any kind illegal.
EDIT: Separation of wealth and state. Amend the constitution.
Precisely. The usefulness of free market theory is that it is an idealized model that explains certain aspects of real market behavior approximately.
In this it resembles other idealized theoretical models. e.g. in physics or chemistry, such as the idealized gas model. It describes certain aspects of the behavior of real gases.
Idealized models are a starting point for a deeper, more subtle understanding. They are not the last word, nor are they some kind of goal of perfection. There is no moral value to an idealized model. It is, by definition, simpler than complex reality.
EDIT: The real value of idealized models is the insight they can provide into the full complexity of reality.