The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Columns

October 2, 2013

Primus Mootry: America's income inequality: a class act?

We live in a class society. More and more, class status is fixed by the circumstances of birth. If you are born rich, it is likely you will stay rich. If you are born into the middle class or in poverty, that is likely where you will die, and sooner rather than later. The evidence suggests that’s the way things are.

Many prefer to apply the salve of popular myth to the open wounds of gross income inequality in this land. The wounds, by the way, are not just to the poor, but to all of us — the entire economy. I suppose there are at least three main reasons we reach for salve instead of economic salvation. First, issues of income inequality and class are complex, murky, and difficult to talk about.

Second, the complexity lies in the fact that most Americans see themselves as middle class, even though they have no working definition of the term. In general, I think being in the middle class means you have a family income of anywhere between $30,000 and $100,000. Then variables of family size, debt, spending habits, and so forth kick in.

That’s part of what makes it murky. Income and solid middle-class status are not necessarily related except, perhaps, in the imagination of wage earners. It is possible, for example, for a family earning over $100,000 to technically be broke. Many with earnings in that range are one or two paychecks away from financial ruin.

Third, the chief difficulty in bringing the subject into the public forum is the deeply embedded idea of America as a meritocracy — it’s called the American Dream. Any talk about income inequality or re-distribution of private wealth (higher taxes) is considered anti-capitalist and, hence, anti-American. That is partially why ill-informed citizens routinely vote against their own interests. Remember Joe The Plumber?

Text Only
Columns
Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

Do you think the community places a high enough value on education?

Yes
Somewhat
No
Not sure
     View Results