Twilight of the ElitesJuly 13, 2012 @ 1:13 pm (Updated: 7:16 am - 7/14/12 )
Chris Hayes, author of Twilight of the Elites, says that we are all losing the American Dream. (Mynorthwest.com/File)
We see America as a place where you can start out poor and die rich.
"The notion of the American Dream is that you can end up in that small circle of winners," says author Chris Hayes.
But in a book called Twilight of the Elites, Chris Hayes - he also hosts a show on MSNBC - writes that it's not working.
It's supposed to work. We've built a meritocracy based on competitive examinations, so that the positions of influence are filled by people who deserve it, without regard to race, or who you know, and yet for all that, social mobility is declining.
His own high school in New York - Hunter - is a case in point. It admits students based strictly on test scores, but even that hasn't leveled the playing field.
"We've seen a fairly dramatic decline in the number of black and Latino students admitted, to the point where it's now 3 and 1 percent, respectively. This is in a city that's a majority of black and Latino. And along with that, the growth of a test-prep industry," says Hayes.
Which means it's the students who can afford the test prep who get in, and so we're back to rewarding kids who come from money.
Oh for the fifties, when incomes were so much more equal!
Yet look what it took to create that equality: a citizenry which won a World War by investing, rationing, and recycling, and a government imposing a 90% tax rate on the rich, and willing to finance a home and a college education for any GI that wanted them. The government forcibly created a middle class. Something no one would tolerate today.
"If we are, in fact, passing the baton of privilege from one generation to the next, we're actually getting the opposite results from what we want, which is the idea that people can come from anywhere and end up at the top," says Hayes.
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