Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

A Senator-elect on America’s “class-based system”

Posted by metaphorical on 17 November 2006

 The most important–and unfortunately the least debated–issue in politics today is our society’s steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America’s top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people.
 This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris
 It should be the first order of business for the new Congress to begin addressing these divisions, and to work to bring true fairness back to economic life.


James Webb, the newly elected Senator from Virginia, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece dated 15 November.

4 Responses to “A Senator-elect on America’s “class-based system””

  1. Vicki said

    You know, reading things like this always leaves me with the uneasy feeling that I’m one of them and no longer one of us. And I argue against it, but when these arguments center around money and what it can buy, I lose, I’m afraid. Not that I’m wealthy, but I (and my family) are higher on the economic scale than your average middle-class person. I’m curious as to why these arguments are made on economic rather than ideological grounds. We are above the median in income. We are also pro-union, anti-tax-break, pro-universal-health-care, against anyone’s child fighting this particular war, and lean towards progressive politics.

    I feel as though I am regarded as “the enemy” because I own stocks and could send my kids to private school.

  2. Well, that’s certainly a problem, if people like you are more alienated than attracted.
    But Webb is explicitly talking about the top few percent of Americans, the people whose standard of living has “infinitely” improved since 1980. Yours has improved, mine has improved, but not in nearly the same way.
    But maybe it’s okay if you and me are made to feel a little bit uncomfortable about where were are. Can we really offer a reason for making 10x the salary of someone who mops floors 40 hours a week or jackhammers concrete? Or for us to have health care and other people not to? Of course not.
    I know for my part, I’ve told my political representatives that that’s unacceptable, but have I done it by grabbing them by the lapels, or is it more like a tap on the shoulder?

  3. J said

    metaphorical – “Can we really offer a reason for making 10x the salary of someone who mops floors 40 hours a week or jackhammers concrete?”

    I can think of one. If you’re making ten times what someone else does, you must have acquired a skill that is much rarer than the one they are using to earn their living. Life in inherently unfair. Social experiments to “level the playing field” have thus far ended disastrously. If we’re going to try again, lets at least try something that hasn’t already proved to be a failure. BTW, unless you’re contributing big-time cash to your representative, he doesn’t really care what you think.

  4. JoAnne said

    I don’t think a rare skill is always a highly-compensated skill. If you mean there’s less supply than demand, yes, that’s generally true.

    Social experiments in the past have included paying women and Blacks little or nothing to do the work they do. It seemed to work pretty well for those who benefited, and those “experiments” continue to influence the expectations of workers and employers today.

    So I don’t think we can tell right off the bat what is social experiment and what is just going against the norm.

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