Thursday, October 27, 2011

America's Declining Social Mobility

The far right in America loves to talk about American exceptionalism and the myth that anyone can make it in America regardless of their humble roots. In some ways there is still truth to the claim. But increasingly, the USA which now has a wealth disparity worse than many former banana republics, the opportunity to move up socially is more available in other industrialized nations rather than in the USA. The above chart that tracks inter-generational earnings mobility that was prepared by the Institute for the Study of Labor shows that even in France - the far right's favored whipping boy - social mobility opportunity now exceeds that of the USA. And Scandinavian nations which are much maligned by the Christianist crowd lead the pack in terms of opportunity.

Repeating a lie often enough may convince the ignorant and gullible, but it doesn't make the lie true. Americans need to wake up to what is happening to this country.


Jack Scott said...

Michael, there is no doubt you and I are as different as night and day in our politics. But what amazes me is not what we disagree on. Rather, I am frequently amazed at what we agree on.

I sometimes think you're still a Republican, just one with a heart and a mind.

I am such a Republican. We're an endangered species, but we do still exist. I agree with you fully that the disparity of wealth in this country is becoming alarming.

The decline in the middle class along with the decline in middle class jobs must be stopped and turned around or eventually everything will be lost. We simply must increase opportunity in this country.

At the same time the poor have to come to understand that they cannot be made whole on the backs of the wealthy. If the government was to take 100% of the wealth of the top 5 percent in this country and give it to the poor, the poor would be no better off in the long run than they currently are.

The truth is hard, but it is the truth. One can only achieve wealth by contributing something to the economy that is desired. The poor cannot be brought out of poverty by having money bestowed upon them by the government.

Capitalism has not failed us. We have failed capitalism. Capitalism can only work in a moral and honest society. We have become a corrupt and dishonest society.

Capitalism can only work when everyone is given the opportunity to succeed and when most take advantage of those opportunities. We have become a lazy and unambitious society. Every child has the opportunity for a high school education in this country but the drop out rate is now well over 40 percent in many states. Young people are simply unwilling to stay in school and acquire the basic tools necessary to function in modern society.

I was chastised the other day by one who told me that I had to remember that I speak from a position of privilege. He's right. I do. I understand that. Even as a retired man no longer working my income level is in the top 8 - 9 percent in this country. By definition, I am indeed privileged. But it was not always so.

I was born in a 3 room shack that backed up to a railroad track. My parents were poor by any definition. But I was taught early in life that opportunities required work and struggle. I began earning my own money at age ten and from age ten until my recent retirement I never stopped working.

You state that American exceptionalism is a myth and then you catch yourself and admit there is still truth to the claim. I'm living proof of the fact that hard work and struggle can bring one from poverty to wealth.

You're hard on the Republicans and your hard on the Christians Michael, but your criticisms are fair. I challenge you to be as hard on the Democrats and on the people who have come to expect others to take care of them. You're an educated professional man in a career that requires critical thinking. You simply have to see that all the problems this country is facing are not the fault of just Republicans and Christians. You have to see the faults of the poor themselves and those who prey upon the poor while pretending to be one of them.

It is NOT just Republicans and Christians who need to wake up and see what they are doing to the country. The Democrats need to understand that nothing is gained by every increasing transfers of wealth. The idle poor need to understand that when you are poor NO JOB is beneath you. The young poor and middle class need to understand that getting an education or learning a skill is their JOB and their ticket to the future.

This country is down but its not out.

Jack Scott

Michael-in-Norfolk said...


I ceased to be a Republican because the Party left me when it became a quasi-religious party that ignored the separation of church and state. Since then the Party has become best defined by who the base hates, which is almost everyone who isn't white, straight and conservative Christian.

As for the Democrats, I rip Obama typically several times per week and do not necessarily hold lots of love for the Democrats. It's merely a case where the GOP has become so vile, so insane, and so heartless and cruel that the Democrats are the lesser of the evils.

Here in Virginia I am pushing people to vote Democrat on November 8th simply because most of the GOP candidates are foaming at the mouth religious fanatics or certifiably crazy. The Democrats as a result represent the only option of stopping the GOP insanity. Am I happy about the situation? Not at all, but I honestly don't see the GOP changing until the Party goes down to numerous massive defeats. Few of the moderates I knew when I was on the City Committee for the GOP in Virginia Beach are left. Those that have stayed seem to have started to drink the Kool-Aid which is scary.

Oh, and thanks for the "heart and a mind" comment.