Sunday, May 15, 2005

Class and Mobility

The New York Times (sell-your-soul registration required, or see, today begins a series on Class in America. I haven't even finished part one yet, but, as every good blogger should, I'll start commenting anyway:

  • An interesting tidbit in the sidebar is Where do you fit in?. Enter your job, education, income, and wealth, and the Times will tell you where you fit in each category. It doesn't, unfortunately, tell you what those four numbers add up to. I mean, am I supposed to hobnob with the people on Martha's Vinyard and send my kids to Princeton, or must I shop exclusively at WalMart and drive Chevy Blazers? Enquiring minds want to know.
  • The paper makes a big deal of social mobility decreasing in this country. However, from the graphics, it's obvious that we are still pretty mobile, and that, while the rich tend to stay rich, the poor aren't bound to remain poor. Note: this graph only marks changes over a ten-year period, 1988 to 1998, so it's not really telling you anything about how your children might do. However,
  • there's also a graphic showing upward mobility of the poor over several generations, for different countries (keep clicking the NEXT button on the last link until you find it. The US trails socialistic Denmark, not as socialistic Canada, and trade-union dominated France, but is head of that traditional class-bound society, the UK. Oddly, the difference is most marked in the first generation. By the fourth generation, it's pretty much evens out.

I guess the Blogger's Oath requires me to draw a conclusion, so here goes: we're not as bad off as the article's lead paragraphs suggest. (I may change that opinion after I read more.) Certainly, the people I've talked to, even on my last trip, don't seem to be any worse off than they were, say, 10-20 years ago, and while you hear them complain, the complaints aren't any worse than they've ever been. Now, I do know some people who used to work for Enron, and they're worse off, but that's a specific case.

So, as I noted before, when people don't think they are hurting economically, they turn to social issues. Which, in the heartland, at least, means more conservative issues. Think about it: Democrats keep telling you you're worse off, but you don't really think so. Republicans keep telling you that things are going to get even better, and, in the mean time, we're going to fix things so this country works like it did in that mythical time when all (OK, all non-immigrant whites) were as happy as the Munchkins after the Witch got a house upside her head. Which way do you think people will vote?

Which means, of course, that the Dems need to change message. I, myself, would start with things like the new Real ID act, the parts of the Patriot Act which say that your library records are open to the government without any special notice, and other privacy issues. But that's just me.


Carol Davidson said...

Good post! Did you see the falafelsex graphic on the National ID?