Wednesday, February 05, 2014

the end of american exceptionalism


theatlantic | When conservatives acknowledge these trends, they often chalk them up to Obama's policies, which have supposedly drained Americans of their rugged individualism and habituated them to government handouts. "Once the public is hooked on government health care," Lowry and Ponnuru note, "its political attitudes shift leftward." But Obama is less the driver of this shift in economic attitudes than the beneficiary. It's certainly true that Obama won the votes of Americans skeptical that they can rise via the unfettered market. Among the majority of 2012 voters who believe America's economic system favors the wealthy, Obama beat Romney by 45 points. But Obama is not the reason so many Americans believe that. For more than a century, commentators have chalked up Americans' support for capitalism and lack of economic resentment to America's exceptional upward mobility. It's unclear when exactly American upward mobility began to decline. But it's not surprising that, eventually, that decline would cause class attitudes to harden.

The question exceptionalists should be asking is why America, once vaunted for its economic mobility, now trails much of the advanced world. Single-parent families clearly play a role, since poor children born into two-parent homes are far more upwardly mobile than those who are not. Housing patterns that segregate the poor from the middle class also seem to limit poor kids' chances of getting ahead. But economic inequality is also a big part of the story. Across the world, the University of Ottawa's Miles Corak has demonstrated, countries with higher inequality suffer lower mobility. The same is true inside the United States: The flatter a city is economically, the more likely its poor will rise.

Part of the reason is "opportunity hoarding." In recent decades, the wealth gap between the richest Americans and everyone else has dramatically widened. Rich Americans have used this influx of cash to give their children special advantages that keep them from losing their spots atop the income ladder to children born with lesser means. Think about test preparation, which became a national industry only in the 1970s. Or the way wealthy parents subsidize unpaid internships or buy expensive houses to gain access to the best public schools. In the early 1970s, rich families spent four times as much on their children's education as poor ones. Today, they spend almost seven times as much. Culture plays a large role in this. If the rich didn't value education, they wouldn't spend their cash on it. But until recently, they didn't have so much cash to spend. As a paper by Stanford sociologists Pablo Mitnik, Erin Cumberworth, and David Grusky notes, "Inequality provides privileged families with more resources that can then be lavished on their children, resources that raise their chances of securing desirable class positions for themselves." Whether this lavishing has contributed to an absolute decline in upward mobility in the United States in recent decades, it has certainly contributed to America's decline relative to other advanced countries.

All of which raises another question that conservative exceptionalists should be asking: What's behind skyrocketing inequality? Why do the top 1 percent of Americans, who took in roughly 11 percent of national income in the mid-1970s, account for more than double that today? Globalization and technology are clearly part of the story. If you're an American who works with your hands, you're competing with low-paid workers across the globe, not to mention machines, to an extent scarcely imaginable a few decades ago. That competition pushes down wages for Americans without a college degree, and widens the gap between rich and poor.

What globalization and technology can't explain is why inequality is so much higher in America than in Europe, where the same tectonic forces are at play. Indeed, if you eliminate government policies on taxing and spending, America is about as unequal as Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and a bit more equal than Finland, Germany, and Britain. America claims its place as the most unequal major Western country only when you add in government policy. Which is to say that while globalization and technology may be increasing inequality everywhere, they are increasing it more in the United States because, compared with Europe, the United States redistributes less money from rich to poor.

Which brings us back to conservatives, because it is their champions—Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, George W. Bush in the 2000s—who pushed many of the policies that have boosted inequality. In the mid-1970s, the federal government's top tax rate for regular income was 70 percent and its top rate for long-term capital gains was almost 40 percent. When Bush left office, the rate on regular income had fallen to 35 percent and the rate on long-term capital gains was down to 15 percent. (That has crept up under Obama to almost 40 percent on regular income and 20 percent on capital gains for individuals making over $400,000.) These huge shifts in tax policy have been partially offset by antipoverty spending, which has grown significantly since the 1970s, largely because skyrocketing health care costs have made Medicaid far more expensive. But even if you take that increase into account, America is still doing far less to combat inequality than other advanced democracies.

If you believe, as academics increasingly do, that economic inequality goes hand in hand with calcified class relations, then decades of conservative policy have contributed to America's relative lack of economic mobility.

This, in turn, has soured young Americans on the belief that through the free market they can rise above the circumstances of their birth. Which means that, when it comes to declining faith in the American Dream of upward mobility, as with declining faith in organized religion and declining faith in America's special mission in the world, conservatives have helped foment the very backlash against American exceptionalism that they decry.

14 comments:

CNu said...

Jablonski breaking it down http://subrealism.blogspot.com/2014/01/jablonski-taking-sledgehammer-to-race.html

CNu said...

nutrient-shaped, nutrient-seeking, macro-molecular machines..., see Kurman's meditation on neoteny and vitamin D. http://subrealism.blogspot.com/2013/04/nutrient-shaped-nutrient-seeking-macro.html

Vic78 said...

Wow! You really don't believe in evolution? Are you at least open to the possibility that you could be wrong? Certainty's a killer around here. Have you read any Plato? I'll help you out a little. http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/theatu.html

BigDonOne said...

In the Real World of PRR professionals, name-calling is rarely resorted-to, and only when the name caller lacks any real data with which to refute the targeted opinion. Please elaborate on why Subrealism believes Murray is a "dirtbag." All he did is compile virtually every available study relating to human outcomes, and infer the obvious conclusions: People who do poorly on cognition-evaluating tests also do poorly in life outcomes ---> Don't finish school, can't hold a job, can't get/stay married, acquire criminal records, and breed OOW......

ken said...

"Two hundred thousand years later, around 10,000 B.C., this began to change. A genetic mutation appeared, somewhere near modern-day Turkey, that jammed the lactase-production gene permanently in the “on” position."

Weird a mutation?

"In an evolutionary eye-blink, 80 percent of Europeans became milk-drinkers; in somepopulations, the proportion is close to 100 percent. (Though globally, lactose intolerance is the norm; around two-thirds of humans cannot drink milk in adulthood.) The speed of this transformation is one of the weirder mysteries in the story of human evolution, more so because it's not clear why anybody needed the mutation to begin with."



Yep, they are freely calling it a mutation...oh well.

BigDonOne said...

@Vic78 "Please read this link. "
As usual, that site contains no data refuting Murray, just more name-calling and wishful thinking....


Here's more Real Data from today (scroll down to the orange table)... http://stuffblackpeopledontlike.blogspot.com/2014/02/nothing-to-do-but-cut-and-run-death.html

Vic78 said...

I guess the world needs laughter.

http://youtu.be/RXhKpUfITV0

CNu said...

lol, Rev. Don wants to pretend that Murray wasn't advocating for the ovens back in the day. Now that the collapse has caught up with a broad and growing swath of white folks, the revisionists (including Murray himself) want to pretend that he's always just only ever been talking about culture instead of talking about irremediable congenital defects for which there is only one solution.

CNu said...

Chua got a strong dose of Stacy's mom going on http://youtu.be/pJb8yr07V9E

Vic78 said...

Man, that Shame project is pretty damning. Anyone following Murray's a fucking fool. All I can do at this point is have fun at their expense.

CNu said...

Unlike creationism - the logic/language/values of which are irredeemably insane - science is open to refinement. The current state of evolutionary theory is in need of a great many refinements - most of which will proceed from the continuing improvement in understanding of epigenetics, the microbiome, symbiogenesis, and the myriad of factors just now coming into clear mechanistic view.



Evolution by natural selection is the framework, understanding how the genome/epigenome/microbiome complex works is that set of devilish details still being elaborated.

CNu said...

Unlike the boneheaded wattles who attack the placeholder "mutation" from the perspective of a scholastic and anti-evolutionary agenda - I have pointed out quite specifically why "mutation" is no longer an acceptable technical placeholder for the dazzlingly complex interaction taking place within the genome/epigenome/microbiome/symbiogenetic system.

An overarching thrust of this blog over the course of its now 8 year run has been to hip non-specialist observers to the astonishing developments within the ultimate hackerspace - molecular biology.

You can stop pretending to have traction on this point - and in fact - do your boneheaded cronies a favor by hipping them to the new developments in understanding devilish details related to the marvelous nutrient-shaped, nutrient-seeking, macro-molecular machinery. (not that anyone here expects you to actually try and elevate the wattles game since the wattles game depends so heavily on sustaining ignorance and imposing a specific set of tediously argued frames)

BigDonOne said...

RE: Murray -- Shooting the messenger does not change the message. Refute the Message or give it up....

Tom said...

Ken,
You're still falling into exactly the same error. You're trying to refute evolution as if it were some kind of fixed set of "teachings" that can't be refined by comparison with data.


That is irrelevant. Craig said consider evolution without mutations that do anybody any good. We can all (except for you I suppose) go ahead and consider that. Your approach here was to say, (a) that still looks like evolution, and so (b) it still relies on mutations. We all acknowledge (a); you back (b) up with references to evolutionary scripture, and you think you've proven your point.


Here's a tangent, but one that embodies the same error you're making:
At one time rocket propulsion was widely believed to be impossible in a vacuum -- in outer space. The reason people believed that: There's a pretty good model of how cannon work that uses the pressure inside the barrel to estimate the force on the cannonball. The pressure pushes on the ball, the ball goes out of the barrel. OK. But in a vacuum there's no pressure pushing on a rocket from behind. So many people happily "proved" that "ballistic theory" says rockets can't accelerate in outer space. You could "prove" that again today by citing chapter and verse from internal ballistics (ballistics inside firearms). You can tell people they are "rooted in mechanics" and so they must believe that rockets can't reach the moon.


You'll never be able to correct your error as long as you treat science as if it were scripture, "teachings." It's not. A lot of people -- including many misguided science teachers and even practicing scientists -- act as if science were embodied by "teachings," but it is not.