Inequality is getting worse, but it seems that the way you're presenting it isn't very accurate. The focus in this edition of The Nation is on the ultra-rich, as if it were a contest between a few billionaires at the top and everyone else. It's much easier to look at people who occupy the commanding heights and define yourself as being against them than it is to consider people who actually exist in larger numbers and can be found in any American city much more easily. Wealth has been transferred to the top, but that top includes people who define themselves as "upper middle class," while being doctors, well-off lawyers and professionals, as well as businessmen who make a lot but aren't on the top of the heap.
If what we're talking about is capitalism and on top of that class and class power, the idea that it's only Mr. Rockefeller and the Vanderbilts, or Donald Trump and Warren Buffet up there versus everyone else makes little sense, because the system is more complex than that. I'd argue that it isn't individuals but actual classes of individuals who occupy certain positions that are the problem. It's a distraction bordering on a kind of escapist conspiracy theory to present how society is changing in the other way.
Bringing up actual people makes certain folks who criticize uncomfortable because it brings it closer to home. We all see folks who drive SUVs, we can probably all locate a tony mall or shopping center in our area that sells designer clothes, and look at the people who shop there. Really being against inequality means being able to criticize these folks, who aren't convenient abstractions that we never see or have contact with.
It's a particularly American evasion not to do this. In the rest of the world, when they criticize inequality, it's much less anchored in the stratosphere, and this approach is considered normal.
John S. Madziarczyk
Jun 17 2008 - 10:46pm