You may have read the recent series in the New York Times focusing on the fact that Americans today have less class mobility than in the past.
Against the evidence, most of us actually believe just the opposite.
We still ascribe to the great American myth of the "self-made man."
This is important at a time when the gap between the rich and the poor widens every month. In spite of this growing chasm, an opinion poll conducted in 2000 reported that almost 40% of us believe that we are either members of the wealthiest 1% or that we are soon to be!
The fact that financial inequality is a fact of life today doesn't really get to me if I think I'm already at the top or will be able to get there soon.
As income disparity grows, social mobility tends to lock up.
Most of us underestimate the place of class in determining where a person ends up economically in life. We prefer to ignore factors such as social status at birth and the inherent privilege of some groups when compared to others.
We like to talk about genius, hard work as the determinants of success and economic status.
Turned around, we also buy into the notion that people who fail (i. e. the poor) do so because they lack intelligence or are lazy.
Very naive, to say nothing of self-serving.
Class at birth, something none of us had anything to do with, usually dictates where we end up in adulthood. Class status also is a reliable predictor for education, access to health care resources, housing, transportation, employment and power.
We need to set the "self-made man" myth aside, along with the idea that anybody can get to the top today.
Here's a fact to chew on: between 1980 and 2002, the bottom 90% of us experienced a decline in real income. On the other hand, those at the top watched their income double.
We need not be surprised to see poverty grow and immobility solidify and deepen inequities in the U. S. No wonder we have so much work to do!
[These ideas flow from an interesting piece by David Moberg, "Class Consciousness Matters: What's Missing from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal" In These Times found at http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/2175/.]
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