Our statisticians have taken some big hits lately. They botched the Election….they can’t get everyone to agree on Climate Change….they’re finding push-back to their One Percent argument. And yet this last one may prove to be the most fundamental wound in our Body Politic.
At least ever since the Occupy Wall Street protests a few years ago, the general public has heard warnings about this growing income-and-opportunity disparity among our population. Whether a reluctance to accept the death of the American Dream, or just a rejection of the long-haired protestors involved, the beauty salons and barber shops of the land still seem largely drawn to other issues. Especially those of a more colorful and compelling brand like the new Administration.
Still, it’s page-three themes like this One Percent argument that advance with invisible yet inexorable persistence. The causes are still debated, but the consequences are clear. As Lincoln saw it: “A house divided against itself cannot long endure.” And the house
in which the One Percent dwell is increasingly more distant and divided from the rest of us every new report.
The latest One Percent volley from the statisticians comes from the Equality of Opportunity Project which recently released data that, properly read, should scare the hell out of both professors and politicians. Taking 10 of the nation’s more elite colleges [Washington U, Colorado, Washington & Lee, Colby, Trinity, Bucknell, Colgate, Kenyon, Middlebury, Tufts], they report students enrolled with the highest family incomes [the One Percent] are two and three times as many as their lowerincome counterparts.
From campus dorms and bars to everyday neighborhoods and bars, the gulf between “them” and “us” is widening like those melting Arctic glaciers. The Jeffersonian dream of all-men-are-created-equal has subtly surrendered to the Hamiltonian vision of some-men-are-created-to-lead. We didn’t really need a Trump victory to know this, but now we can surely understand this.
For good or for ill, the One Percent have arrived in what may be their fullest historical glory. The United States will now be governed by a billionaire President, a billionaire Cabinet, and a multi-millionaire Congress. The same is true in Russia, China and who knows where elsewhere they don’t open their tax returns. All this may prove to be simply the logical progression in the evolution of our species. And if it doesn’t, who will be around to notice the difference?
Some of the nation’s best sociologists, psychologists and statisticians seem to be coalescing around a prominent reality. The ancient tribal code of Us-Them never died, and in our age has come to a dazzling global climax. Credit cards, knock-off’s, and on-line sales still make it possible for the least among us to catch an occasional piece of stardust, but it doesn’t always last long. Like the widening disparity among the students in college, the white collar workers in business, the blue collar workers on the line, and the fans in the bleachers looking at the three-piece-suits in the skyboxes, the dream of equality was choked by the reality of liberty. When there is liberty for all, there can no longer be equality for all.
If we didn’t understand this before, 2017 makes it impossible to pretend any longer…..
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