Rethinking the 1-to-99% Divide

The WSJ and an author–Charles Murray–from the AEI weren’t exactly the sources that I thought I’d get an interesting perspective on class inequality and America, but it’s there and I did.  The Republican war cry of class warfare on every person that tries to point out that we are suffering hugely from income inequality and differences in burden for the responsibility of our country’s defense and continuation has been knee jerk and shallow. I’ve especially seen it play out in Willard’s deer-in-headlights performance when he tries to say he relates to the streets of America when no one can even enter most of the gated communities that shelter his houses and he casually offers bets of more money than most families see in months. Oh, and don’t forget those inconsequential speaker fees that represent more income in one year than most families see in ten.  You don’t have to watch VH1’s Housewife Horror show to know that these people are just not like the rest of the country.  I actually never get the feeling that Willard or the Wives care about the state of the country.  The Wives just want access to botox and champagne.  Willard just wants another entry on his resume.

I honestly don’t believe that most Americans want Mitt Romney’s life.  I don’t feel any envy towards him.  He seems so stilted and shallow that I frequently wonder how he functions without a wind up key.  Most Americans want their own lives with good paying, secure jobs that can help them meet their modest, American middle class dreams.  It’s hard to obsess on the benefits botox and vacation homes when you can’t figure out how you’re going to get all your kids through college and retire some day.

Now, I’ve read Murray’s assertion in the editorial that woman’s lib and civil rights caused all these problems and I don’t agree at all.  Most women went back to work because their husbands’ salaries couldn’t handle all the bills. I also don’t think that government programs bail out criminals and create them on a large scale.  Thankfully, he doesn’t spend much time in print blaming the working class for becoming poor and the poor for turning to crime. There are a few things he mentions that are worth thinking about.  The first is the idea of these 1 percenters that are sitting in this “super Zips”.  These are basically the gated communities where the ultra rich hide from reality.  He also suggests that every one try being a bit moral about their choices.  It’s like he’s talking to Newt Gingrich who is on his third wife who had how many affairs going on about the sanctity of marriage for every one else.  He’s also talking to Newt who goes on about poor folk and blah people living on food stamps while taking multimillion dollar checks from Freddie Mac to espouse his viewpoint as a history professor. Food stamps show lack of character.  Taking multimillion dollar consulting fees because you know the right people shows character?  C’mon. These folks are great at tut tutting the little people while doing completely dishonorable things themselves.

Changing life in the SuperZIPs requires that members of the new upper class rethink their priorities. Here are some propositions that might guide them: Life sequestered from anybody not like yourself tends to be self-limiting. Places to live in which the people around you have no problems that need cooperative solutions tend to be sterile. America outside the enclaves of the new upper class is still a wonderful place, filled with smart, interesting, entertaining people. If you’re not part of that America, you’ve stripped yourself of much of what makes being American special.

Such priorities can be expressed in any number of familiar decisions: the neighborhood where you buy your next home, the next school that you choose for your children, what you tell them about the value and virtues of physical labor and military service, whether you become an active member of a religious congregation (and what kind you choose) and whether you become involved in the life of your community at a more meaningful level than charity events.

Everyone in the new upper class has the monetary resources to make a wide variety of decisions that determine whether they engage themselves and their children in the rest of America or whether they isolate themselves from it. The only question is which they prefer to do.

So, while half of this ‘editorial’ got me steamed, this particular part got me hoping a few of the 1 percenters read the damned thing. We’re beginning to look like Bourbon France and that didn’t end too well as I recall.  Obviously, there’s the examples of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet that show the gilded set can pay it forward. But, I think we have far too many Kardasians and far too many people that enable the cult of the Kardasians.  Murray should think long and hard about his diatribes against women working outside the home when they have to and a little more on the lunching lady set that leaves their kids bonded to their Nicaraguan Nannies.  He should spend a little bit more time on Daddy’s that run hedge funds that run up commodity prices and run banks that do illegal foreclosures on millions of people.  He focuses a bit too much on that stupid right wing meme of lazy selfish poor.  I’m sure the Kardasian clothing line is made by young girls kept in slave conditions some where in Asia. Also, what do you call Paris Hilton? What does her existence contribute to anything?

The deal is there is a cultural divide and we do need to reevalute our commitment to our society and country.  I do think the ultra rich are getting less honorable all the time.  Just as an example, look at the numbers of young men and women that serve in the military these days.  Military colleges used to be places where very rich and socially well-placed young men wound up. That just doesn’t happen any more.  I think that we’ve quit instilling service to country in people. I doubt we’d hear JFK’s words “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” coming from the lips of any of the wealthy denizens in congress these days.  If a WSJ lecture from an AEI fellow gets that conversation started, then I’m all for it.

16 Comments on “Rethinking the 1-to-99% Divide”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Charles Murray isn’t just some author, he wrote The Bell Curve.

    He’s one of those guys who claim white people are inherently superior to black people.

    • ralphb says:

      He and Andrew Sullivan, whom I believe still defends the book. I don’t know what that says about his Obama love?

    • northwestrain says:

      You are so right — Charles Murray got away with misquoting tons of research. There is a follow up book to the Bell Curve by the researchers he misquoted. Way back in the mid 90s I talked to one of the Professors who was misquoted — and he was hopping mad that he’s life’s work was so badly distorted.

      “Anyone who flipped through the footnotes and bibliography of Murray and Herrnstein’s book could see that there was something screwy about their sources. And there is hardly a proposition in their book that had not been thoroughly debunked more than a decade ago by Steven Jay Gould’s classic work on the pseudo-science behind eugenics, The Mismeasure of Man. ”

      The Bell Curve was a new way to present racism (and sexism) — The patriarchal media ate it up.

      Too bad Steven Jay Gould is gone — he would have had a field day with the GOP field of candidates.

      • ralphb says:

        Gould and Carl Sagan are sorely missed in this environment. I never cared a lot for the celebrity scientist bit, but now I see it had a good place and a role to play.

  2. fiscalliberal says:

    Dak – on so many levels your article hits the right assesment. About three months ago, I was hoping that Romney would grow in the campaign. His father was a pretty good Governor in Michigan and I was hoping that the apple did not fall far from the tree. Now my image of him is that he is another George Bush II, he does not have a clue in terms of real life in the country. One would think he would have picked up on this when he was Governor of MA.

    I will never give up my vote. Obama took 1/2 of it in the Michigan primary. His leadership skills are mediocure at best. I really do not like it that Gingrich is on the third wife. However that is not the deciding factor.When he was in the House, his main forte was bomb throwing. I really do not remember him doing something usefull. My perception of him is that of a whining tean ager. Good with the mouth, but little substance.

    I remain curious in terms of how well Gingrich will fare with the strong religious community. It should be intesting tonight

  3. Roofingbird says:

    ooouh! That link left me slimed by non named statistics. I’ll just leave one link to show why zip code leks have more to do with history and today’s problems are only tertiary.

  4. northwestrain says:

    Charles Murray — the master of pseudo science.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I used to be on an eveolutionary psychology list that he was also on. You wouldn’t have believed some of his comments about women and African Americans. I finally had to quit because he wasn’t the only one like that on that list.

      • bostonboomer says:

        If he can get any rich people to pay attention to him, I’ll still take it.

      • northwestrain says:

        There are so few female psychologists who have tenure or even full professorships — the field of psychology is so full of male chauvinists — not all male psychologists but most are chauvinistic pigs. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Murray would make comments about both women and African Americans. I was going to Animal Behavior Conferences when the Bell Curve came out — there is a reason for peer reviews and he tends to skip that step and publish for the “popular” public press.

        Andrew Sullivan is a misogynistic jerk — so of course he would be a supporter of Murray.

        Murray has gone a long way on distortion and lies — he’s predictable. The problem is he uses academic English — and few people can understand what the heck he’s writing about — then he manages to toss out “summaries” which don’t necessarily have anything to do with the misquoting of statistics and research.

        Where is Stephen Jay Gould when we need him?

  5. ralphb says:

    Meet the super super PAC

    Super PACs are just so 2011.

    Meet the next big thing in U.S. politics: the super super PAC.

    These nascent groups can not only raise mega cash to promote candidates, but give money to candidates’ campaigns — a kind of political power and intimacy today’s super PACs alone can’t achieve.

    Here’s how it works: under new federal rules, a traditional PAC and super PAC may operate under one roof. These hybrid operations can raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash to promote or oppose candidates, as any super PAC can, while simultaneously giving limited amounts of money directly to campaigns and committees, like a traditional political action committee.

    This is just going to get worse and worse until Citizens United is overturned.

  6. Ah, Murray. I remember him from the Bell Curve. Proof that one need only be a good hater to make it big in America. To further prove the point, not long ago, a crowd in South Carolina actually booed the Golden Rule.

    Fortunately, the Apocalypse is nigh. No, really: Check out my latest. And don’t harsh my buzz with all of your skeptical harrumphing. Right now, the only thing that could possibly make me smile is thinking about the imminence of immanence, or something like that.

  7. ralphb says:

    My favorite all time warning label. h/t capt howdy at TL.