Fatal flaw in American politico-economic system, that schools could fix, but won’t


. . . unless we change them soon, and in a fashion much different from what Arne Duncan wants.

John Quiggin, again:

Contrary to the cherished beliefs of most Americans, the United States has less social mobility than any other developed country. As Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution have shown, 42 percent of American men with fathers in the bottom fifth of the income distribution remain there as compared to: Denmark, 25 percent; Sweden, 26 percent; Finland, 28 percent; Norway, 28 percent; and Britain, 30 percent. The American Dream is fast becoming a myth.

Tea Partiers, most of them, believe they have a vested interest in keeping things that way, to preserve their own modest economic achievement.  And those at the top?  They delight in a little bit of “Let’s You and Him Fight.”

Quiggin’s article at Foreign Policy introduces five of the ideas in his new book, Zombie Economics; well worth the read.

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11 Responses to Fatal flaw in American politico-economic system, that schools could fix, but won’t

  1. […] “Fatal flaw in America’s politico-economic system, that schools could fix, but won&#8217… […]

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  2. [...] Discussion on social mobility in different nations (hint:  The U.S. doesn’t fare well); and follow-up at Café Philos [...]

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  3. That strikes me as spot on, Jim.

    Some long time ago, I was homeless and living in a Red Cross shelter. It astonished me to discover that almost everyone else in the Shelter was a fan of Rush Limbaugh!

    These were in many cases people who suffered from mental and emotional illnesses (I estimate half the homeless people I’ve met suffer from an illness), but they thought all they had to do to succeed was to be willing to work. They really bought into Rush Limbaugh’s favorite line of the time: “Anyone who really wants a job in this economy can find one.”

    I never really figured out why Rush was so popular. Why he was so respected — why his word was almost deified among the homeless.

    But you seem to have insight into that. So I’ll be thinking of what you’ve said here. Thank you for that.

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  4. Jim Stanley says:

    Nick and Paul,

    That’s a popular canard. If “those people” would just make better choices, life would improve. I used to cling to it like a baby with his pacifier.

    Ironically, most of those who cling to it are nearly as disadvantaged as “those people” that they are kvetching about. What gives, I wonder? All these poor, white, uneducated rubes and bumpkins reliably voting and rally so passionately against their own economic interests! It’s an old story.

    Out of work? Blame the immigrant.

    Passed over for promotion? Blame the “n*gger.”

    Worried about deficits? Blame the children on welfare.

    Thus it has ever been. Poor people want to believe that it will be their turn next. Their chance is just around the corner. Because God knows, they’re better than “those people”. So they keep listening to Limbaugh, nodding worshipfully when Beck bloviates and reading Hannity’s latest ghost-written tirade. Why read Bill Moyers or Paul Krugman or Robert Reich? They use big words and are what Sarah Palin would undoubtedly call “too facty”.

    There’ve always been rubes. I understand, for example, the wealthy, white slaveholder fighting for the Confederacy. It makes sense when you factor out morality. But poor, white tennant farmers? Yet hundreds of thousands of them died to preserve some rich white guy’s right to get richer.

    It has ever been thus. Oh, no…check that. There’s one difference today. Today, the rubes have a 24 hour television channel devoted to convincing them that their turn is coming. Keep fighting for the Kochs and the John Raeses and the Rupert Murdochs of the world. You’ll be the next one admitted to Fiddler’s Green.

    We promise.

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  5. Karen Hedwig Backman says:

    People who attend less church, are less religious, are FAR LESS LIKELY to father or give birth to babies out of wedlock, the reason being that they are given and are aware of complete information on sexuality and know about contraception, STDs, thus are less likely to engage in unprotected sex, indeed to make much intelligent decisions about sexual conduct, including choosing not to be sexually active simply because they are too wise and informed to be seduced or otherwise tricked into unwise sexual behavior by religiously-oriented sexual predators.

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  6. Nick K says:

    Paul writes:
    I am told in response the lack of social mobility reflects not a structural problem, but a decline in the personal habits, morals, and virtues of Americans. If only people would work harder, etc., social mobility would be restored in this nation.

    Ok, that be the single most hilarious and yet tragic thing I’ve heard yet.

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  7. [...] only people would work harder, etc., social mobility would be restored in America.”  Here’s Ed’s counter: Were it personal flaw, shouldn’t that negatively affect the social mobility in nations where the [...]

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  8. [...] only people would work harder, etc., social mobility would be restored in America.”  Here’s Ed’s counter: Were it personal flaw, shouldn’t that negatively affect the social mobility in nations where the [...]

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  9. “I think your critics aren’t paying attention, and they’ve missed the boat.”

    I think you have, in a few words, Ed, destroyed their argument. Anyone who is open to logic and evidence would take serious note of what you’ve said here.

    On the other hand, I think you would be all too familiar with the type of person who for the most part I’ve been arguing with on this issue. Closed minded. Willful ignorance. Immune to reason. etc. I’m sure you recognize the type.

    When I get into it with those folks, I place my faith in the fairness of the audience, rather than in them.
    Still, it’s tragic so many people are so immune to logic and evidence.

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  10. Ed Darrell says:

    Were it personal flaw, shouldn’t that negatively affect the social mobility in nations where the personal morals are, collectively, much lower than in the U.S.?

    Those nations named by Prof. Quiggin are usually held out to be bastions of libertinism for most such discussions — socialist nations, where single parents get time off from work to look after babies, and payments from the government to insure the kid gets enough to eat and can get into a decent school.

    Which personal habits, morals and virtues do they speak of?

    The southern U.S., and especially the Bible Belt, shows a greater lack of social mobility than the rest of the nation. Do your critics mean that people should attend less church, be less religious, have more babies out of wedlock, etc.?

    I think your critics aren’t paying attention, and they’ve missed the boat.

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  11. I’ve posted information similar to that on an internet forum. Often enough, I am told in response the lack of social mobility reflects not a structural problem, but a decline in the personal habits, morals, and virtues of Americans. If only people would work harder, etc., social mobility would be restored in this nation.

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