Can You Still Get Ahead In America?

Frank Rich is his column discusses what can be done to challenge the super rich. Here’s a quote

… The president’s argument against extending the cuts for the wealthiest has now been reduced to the dry accounting of what the cost would add to the federal deficit. As he put it to CBS’s Steve Kroft, “the question is — can we afford to borrow $700 billion?”

That’s a good question, all right, but it’s not the question. The bigger issue is whether the country can afford the systemic damage being done by the ever-growing income inequality between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else, whether poor, middle class or even rich. That burden is inflicted not just on the debt but on the very idea of America — our Horatio Alger faith in social mobility over plutocracy, our belief that our brand of can-do capitalism brings about innovation and growth, and our fundamental sense of fairness. Incredibly, the top 1 percent of Americans now have tax rates a third lower than the same top percentile had in 1970.

The question I ask above is one that has troubled me for some time. Always, in my classes, there are students who say with complete confidence that, of course, they can get ahead. They say they will have great futures and advance up the class ladder.

I support them with everything I can. I teach them the tricks to beat most of the scams I see. I teach them to fight for their money. I teach to be kind to the weak, tough with the strong and merciless to the evil. I try to teach them the tricky politics of the upper class.

But I worry about them. It’s not a good time to be out in the job market. My numbers, economic and political, do not say kind things about this country. The numbers say that increasingly it is a cruel place where predatory fees are the new avenue to corporate wealth.

It makes me unhappy.

I get tired of seeing the great mass of Americans villified as too fat, too stupid, too irresponsible. They are constantly lectured by a media focused on the trivial and slavish in their devotion to upper class values. They are constantly lectured about their need to sacrifice by politicians and businessmen who wouldn’t sacrifice a sweet desert to save all the starving in the world.

They deserve better.

James Pilant