Saturday, March 29, 2008

Eat the Rich

I think it's time for some good, old-fashioned class warfare.
For decades, social scientists, policy wonks, and politicians have studied and debated what's come to be known as the "culture of poverty." The consensus: A group of Americans is set apart from the mainstream by geography, class, and income. Its members adhere to norms that don't apply to the rest of society and engage in self-destructive behavior that imposes significant costs on the nation at large. The culture of poverty has made for potent politics (remember Ronald Reagan's fictitious welfare queen?) and spawned best-selling polemics from the right (Charles Murray) to the left (Jonathan Kozol).

We don't hear as much about the culture of poverty these days. Perhaps it's because the market turmoil is making us all feel a little poorer. Or perhaps it's because a highly visible group is now exhibiting all the outward appearances of the underclass: the overclass. Forget welfare queens and the culture of poverty. Think Wall Street kings and the culture of affluence.

Wall Street types don't live in ghettos, barrios, or the hollows of Appalachia, but they do inhabit environments that are sealed off socially from the rest of the world—the Hamptons on Long Island; Manhattan's Fifth Avenue; Greenwich, Conn. Because they rarely interact with people of middle-class means (save the odd doctor, lawyer, or interior designer), they have become woefully out of touch with the solid bourgeois values that made America great.
Read the rest of the article here.

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