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Old 22 May 2018, 09:56 PM
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Ponder The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy

A long, thoughtful, frank, non-polemic, somewhat downbeat article on the multiple aspects of economic inequality in contemporary United States -- how we got here, what it looks like, and what's keeping it in place. Not too much on how to fix it, but I found it pretty worthwhile reading.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine...ocracy/559130/
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  #2  
Old 23 May 2018, 01:56 PM
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I read the article, but I found Slate's rebuttal to be much more compelling.

https://slate.com/business/2018/05/f...e-problem.html
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Old 23 May 2018, 03:48 PM
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The 9.9 percent thing is a stretch. They combine a lot of different factors, but the people who are in the top 10% of all of those things aren't all the same 10%. There is some correlation, but it's loose enough that the privileged group in various categories extends way beyond 10% of the population. Also, it changes across a person's life.

One of the core metrics they used was personal wealth, but middle class people's personal wealth fluctuates tremendously according to age, which the article didn't address at all. Typical middle class people have virtually no wealth at younger ages, often negative from student loans. Then it increases as they approach retirement age, then it starts to decline again after they actually retire.

So a lot of those top 10% of wealth households are just the ones with 50+ year olds saving up for retirement and who are 20+ years into paying down their mortgage. It's not some elite parallel species from everyone else. A lot more than 10% of the population might live in such a household at some point in their life, but most of them will not occupy that threshold for their entire life.

The top 1% metric is much more inflexible, because that $10 million threshold is really hard to achieve in a single lifetime, starting from $0, without extraordinary success or a serious intergenerational head start.

Also, their political take on how the top 9% run interference for the 0.1% is living in an alternate political reality, when the kinds of educated elite people in the most expensive locations that he's talking about are not the core Republican base, particularly at this moment in history.
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Old 23 May 2018, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Credence View Post
I read the article, but I found Slate's rebuttal to be much more compelling.
That was a much better article, and solidified some thoughts i was having while reading the first article. There is a world of difference between my parents having several hundred thousand saved for retirement and Bill Gates having 92.7 billion, or even your more typical person with a few hundred million.
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Old 23 May 2018, 06:17 PM
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E. Q. Taft E. Q. Taft is offline
 
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I guess I didn't see the article as so much "blaming" or attacking the named 9.9%. It notes, for example, that they tend to include the most educated, who voted for Clinton by a significant margin. I looked at it partly as an exploration of the sometimes-conflict between self-interest and the national interest. As an example, I think the country as a whole would be better off if just about all kids went to public schools, and if there was no disparity in the quality of such schools from neighborhood to neighborhood, district to district, state to state. However, if I had kids and I had the opportunity and means to send them to excellent private schools that would give them a leg up, would I? Probably.

My own feeling was that the writer was trying to raise the consciousness of the very 9.9% he's describing, in how their choices help to keep others down without it being a deliberate policy. (As opposed to those who want to be more privileged than others, who like having an underclass they can rule and exploit.)

But, perhaps my take is incorrect. I did feel there wasn't enough time spent suggesting specific actions and policies that might help reverse the situation, though he did make noises about how the 9.9% should make more efforts to be part of the solution.
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Old 23 May 2018, 07:21 PM
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Almost everyone tries to make reasonable choices for themselves and their families under the current rules of the society in which we live.

The key difference between liberals and conservatives isn't self-interest. It's that one side wants to change the rules of that society to ensure that the people who are already doing well do even better and the people who are already doing poorly do even worse. Some would prefer to to live in a fairer, more equitable society, even if it would mean they have a little less. Establishing what the rules should be as a society is very different from how you as an individual live with established rules. The rules are something that have to be decided at a group level. If it's just a small minority of individual altruists giving up their personal advantages, the system will gladly chew them up and spit them out without any lasting impact.

The weird thing about where we are right now is that so many people are delusional about where their self-interest is and will support policies that actively harm themselves, people like them, and people who are struggling even more than them, and will only benefit a tiny sliver of people who are already doing fine and will continue to do fine regardless of any of the policy options.

The 9% are people who are mostly not going to feel a lot of difference one way or the other. They aren't the ones who will be left behind by conservatives growing inequality, nor the ones who will benefit from their profiteering. They're personally OK either way. The choice they have to make is whether they want to live in a society that is fairer and better for the other 90%, or a society that is less fair and even better for the 1%. 90 people are more important than 1 person, particularly when you're talking about things like life saving medicine or food or shelter for some of the 90, while on the other hand you're talking about bigger boats and fourth homes for the 1.

Last edited by Errata; 23 May 2018 at 07:28 PM.
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Old 23 May 2018, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E. Q. Taft View Post
...However, if I had kids and I had the opportunity and means to send them to excellent private schools that would give them a leg up, would I? Probably...
This is so at the core of much of the problem. This kind of mentality leads to a two-tiered education system. Once people start putting their resources to giving their kids more than 'average', they suck resources out of true public education. It gets worse, because in my experience many parents get-off from how much better their kids' educations are compared to public. Why fully fund public education when your kids have all they need? I mean if we give those 'ghetto'* kids books and comfortable classrooms how can we brag about our schools.

*I've heard the public schools and the students in them called 'ghetto' so many times, always by affluent white people, that I lost count a long time ago.
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Old 23 May 2018, 08:39 PM
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I read it the same way as you, E. Q. Taft. I don't believe the intention was to condemn individual choices but to point out that the aggregate of all the choices and opportunities made by those who can afford it leads to fewer choices and opportunities for those who cannot.

Always strive to do what's best for you and yours, but keep in mind that getting the best often comes at a greater cost than just the financial one.
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Old 23 May 2018, 08:43 PM
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Although strongly supporting well-funded public schools doesn't have to be incompatible with sending your own kids elsewhere. I, personally, support well-funded and effective public schools despite the fact that I have no kids and never wanted or intended to have kids, because I think we will all (including myself) be better off in a society with a well-educated populace. I support finding some way to turn around the skyrocketing costs of college educations, too, even though I am unlikely to ever go back myself, and even if it takes up a slice of my tax money; same reason.

To me, this is just obvious; though I suppose I too draw the line somewhere. While I think we should increase the aid we give to foreign nations, if there was a proposal to do so at a great expense to our own national standard of living, I might well balk.

Still, I would like to believe there are enough people, even among the wealthiest, who can say, "Hey, living in a country surrounded by people who have to continually struggle to provide themselves with the basic necessities, even apart from any altruism, isn't really in my best interest." Isaac Asimov once wrote in a letter to a friend (quoting approximately from memory), "Uncle Sam takes forty percent of my income, but I don't mind; he gives me a nice country in exchange."

Besides, as the article notes, drastic inequality tends to come to an abrupt end in some very unpleasant ways.
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Old 23 May 2018, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by E. Q. Taft View Post
Still, I would like to believe there are enough people, even among the wealthiest, who can say, "Hey, living in a country surrounded by people who have to continually struggle to provide themselves with the basic necessities, even apart from any altruism, isn't really in my best interest." Isaac Asimov once wrote in a letter to a friend (quoting approximately from memory), "Uncle Sam takes forty percent of my income, but I don't mind; he gives me a nice country in exchange."
Among the wealthy it's probably a fairly even split between enlightened self-interest vs. malignant self-interest, but the system has gotten corrupt enough that the greedy have a built-in, systemic advantage.

Publicly traded corporations see it as a fiduciary responsibility to put their profits above the well being of the country. Even if the shareholders might on balance feel one way about an issue, there are so many layers insulating executives from individual shareholders (many of whom might not even know all the companies in their managed portfolios), that it's the bean counters in charge. The rules are sent up so that graft from those corporate interests carries a lot more weight with politicians than the constituents that they nominally represent. Few politicians on either side of the aisle feel very motivated to interrupt their revenue. Not zero, but the ones who want to fight corruption are going to have a very hard time getting 51% of their peers, or getting campaign contributions for reelection.

Voters themselves have proven to be very easily manipulated by a small, well-funded group of influencers, so you can buy both the politicians and the votes.
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