Views: 46448|Replies: 242

"The American Dream" a myth   [Copy link] 中文

Rank: 5Rank: 5

Medal of honor July's Best Writer 2012 June's Best Writer 2012

Post time 2012-6-11 11:03:08 |Display all floors

Income inequality has become the subject of much debate in this country, in large part because of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In his latest book, The Price of Inequality, Columbia Professor and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz examines the causes of income inequality and offers some remedies. In between, he reaches some startling conclusions, including that America is "no longer the land of opportunity" and "the 'American dream' is a myth."


While we all know stories of people who've moved up the social stratosphere, Stiglitz says the statistics tell a very different story. In the last 30 years the share of national income held by the top 1% of Americans has doubled; for to the top 0.1%, their share has tripled, he reports. Meanwhile, median incomes for American workers have stagnated.

Even more than income inequality, "America has the least equality of opportunity of any of the advanced industrial economies," Stiglitz says. In short, the status you're born into — whether rich or poor — is more likely to be the status of your adult life in America vs. any other advanced economy, including 'Old Europe'.

For example, just 8% of students at America's elite universities come from households in the bottom 50% of income, Stiglitz says, even as those universities are "needs blind" — meaning admission isn't predicated on your ability to pay.

"There's not much mobility up and down," he says. "The chances of someone from the top [income bracket] who doesn't do very well in school are better than someone from the bottom who does well in school."

Because the children of those at the top of society tend to do better than those at the bottom — thanks, in part, to better education, health care and nutrition — the income inequality that's slowly emerged over the past 30 years will only widen in the next 10 to 20 years.

If the root causes of income inequality go unaddressed, America will truly become a two-class society and look much more like a third world economy, Stiglitz warns. "People will live in gated communities with armed guards. It's a ugly picture. There will be political, social and economic turmoil." (Hence the book's subtitle: 'How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future')

The good news is Stiglitz believes this "nightmare we're slowly marching toward" can be avoided, citing Brazil's experience since the early 1990s as an example of a country that has reduced income inequality. Among other things, he recommends improving education and nutrition for those at the bottom of society, and eliminating "corporate welfare" and other policies which "create wealth but not economic growth."

For example, he cites the provision in Medicare Part D which forbids the federal government from negotiating prices with the drug companies. Over 10 years, that rule will generate approximately $500 billion for the industry, he estimates, but no tangible benefit for taxpayers or the economy as a whole.

Importantly, Stiglitz believes inequality of wealth and opportunity are hurting the overall economy, by limiting competition, promoting cronyism and keeping those at the bottom from reaching their potential.

"What I want is a more dynamic economy and a fairer society," he says, suggesting income inequality is ultimately detrimental to those at the top, too. "My point is we've created an economy that is not in accord with the principles of the free market."


Use magic tools Report

Rank: 5Rank: 5

Medal of honor July's Best Writer 2012 June's Best Writer 2012

Post time 2012-6-11 11:40:00 |Display all floors
This is a very serious problem for the states.
Watch closely China and learn

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 8Rank: 8

Post time 2012-6-11 12:18:19 |Display all floors
seneca Post time: 2012-6-11 11:45
A tad surrealist and overly alarmist:

The difference here being that in the US consumer society, the system relied on the middle class for consumption and to keep the economy ticking over. In the absence of that the system collapses, and what we have seen in the past thirty years is the impoverishment of the consumer.

The consumer can only spend the money he/she receives as wages. The capitalist's drive for ever higher profits and outsourcing has in effect killed the consumer. While credit criteria were still healthy the problem was masked by lending the consumer the money to buy the goods, but all that died eventually and you are now left with the super rich and the poor.

The societies you mention may have a small ruling elite which in some cases enjoy a very comfortable life, but the rest are assured of free health care, education, housing, etc.
The world needs more idiots like me, all the others think they are clever.

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 5Rank: 5

Medal of honor July's Best Writer 2012 June's Best Writer 2012

Post time 2012-6-11 12:38:38 |Display all floors
seneca Post time: 2012-6-11 11:45
A tad surrealist and overly alarmist:

Are you saying "that is the way of the world"?
Governments are hopelessly looking for the "pie in the sky"?

It is the governments duty to insure the betterment of ALL people......
NOT just the rich

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 5Rank: 5

Medal of honor July's Best Writer 2012 June's Best Writer 2012

Post time 2012-6-11 17:16:29 |Display all floors
TheHermit Post time: 2012-6-11 12:18
The difference here being that in the US consumer society, the system relied on the middle class f ...

What is the outcome of the problems identified here?
Any hope of reforms?
Will the poor rise up and take their share of the pie?

(Here is to hopeful thinking)

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 5Rank: 5

Medal of honor July's Best Writer 2012 June's Best Writer 2012

Post time 2012-6-11 17:18:34 |Display all floors
seneca Post time: 2012-6-11 12:26
Every generation only sees their own plight: they don't bother to check history to see how they got  ...

It seems to me you look to the past to justify the present.
The future is learning from the past......
NOT repeat it.
Just because a government has never achieve perfection...
Does not mean we should stop trying.

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 6Rank: 6

Post time 2012-6-11 19:42:30 |Display all floors
There simply is NOT a single one-class society in existence, and never was. All socialist Utopias have had at least two classes - the ruling elite and the ruled (or misruled, as the case might be). Look no farther than N Korea. China is, luckily, long past that. Cuba? Typical two-class society.


That is correct - but most societies also have more than two classes. At least three...
Nobody is questioning the fact that there should be an elite. But what is in question is who should be member of the elite and how the elite is connected to the rest.

In northern and western Europe, you have the working class, the elite and the middle class. Their children go to the same schools, are evaluated according to the same criteria and can advance to the same universities according to their marks. Everyone has access to decent medical treatments, enough food and  a decent home. If you are born into the working class, you can still become a member of the elite easily, if you're bright and open. You can become a millionaire by working hard and dedicatedly. This crucial part of the American national identity is currently challenged, as access to decent education and to capital are just not sufficient anymore in the US for members of the working class.

However, Europe should also keep a close watch on the social mobility of its societies, as it is also increasingly challenged by larger governments (thus higher taxes on income which prevent people from getting rich) and by an elitist view of the political leaders (e.g. for Europe's leaders, direct democracy still isn't an option although it'd be a good remedy for the EU's current debt problems). Europe needs to learn to trust its people more, too.

Use magic tools Report

You can't reply post until you log in Log in | register

BACK TO THE TOP
Contact us:Tel: (86)010-84883548, Email: blog@chinadaily.com.cn
Blog announcement:| We reserve the right, and you authorize us, to use content, including words, photos and videos, which you provide to our blog
platform, for non-profit purposes on China Daily media, comprising newspaper, website, iPad and other social media accounts.