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We are not all in this together. Is that even possible?

We are not all in this together. Is that even possible?

The economic interests of the rich and the rest are at odds, writes Shamus Khan in

an op-ed for The New York Times. And since 1979, the interest of the rich have been served. After sketching in the economic background, Khan, an associate professor of sociology writes:

As a worldview, there’s something seductive in imagining that what’s good for me is good for everyone. Realizing my own advantage, then, doesn’t only feel good; it’s the moral thing to do. But sadly there isn’t much evidence that greed is good.

The first is that just as political alliances brought us out of our golden age, they can also return us to it. This will not be easy. The nation has often come together in response to shared threats, but a political project like this is tougher. Those who want the lion’s share of the national wealth will threaten to leave our shores. Let them. There are plenty of civic-minded members of the elite who recognize that absent major changes, our future is clear: more and more for the richest and a society where the mass of the citizenry idles. This is democracy in decline.

The second lesson is harder. We are not in this together. We need to get back to what made America great, when the many and not the few were winning. To do so we must stop conflating moral arguments with economic ones. Instead of operating under the fiction that we will all benefit from a proposed change in economic direction, let’s be honest. If a few of us are better off, then many are not. If many are better off, then the few will be constrained. Which world would you rather live in? To me the answer is obvious

Does the church have a role in working to narrow what the writer Timothy Noah has called the great divergence?

(Updated at 9:45 with a paper by Jared Bernstein on the effects of economic inequality on economic growth.)


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Chris H.

Meg, 60+ percent of wellfare members have cable tv and they go on out of state vacations and they can and do live as well as the working poor.

People on this site often wonder why lower level workers vote Republican and want to cut welfare services: it’s because they don’t want people on welfare living as well or better than those who work. They live right next to the one getting home, food, cable, phone, etc. free while they work 2+ jobs for what the gov’t gives the other for nothing. Are we all in it together? Not even close, not even the lower class are.

Jim, why do you think “keeping up with the Joneses” is such a cliché? Because comparing what we have and what we do is how we decide our worth and what “fair” is. If the one on the dole only makes $10,000, but it takes another person $33,000 to live the same life, it’s not just about income. It can’t be, because different parts of the country have very different economies and prices. My monthly income wouldn’t rent me an apartment in New York City and I’ve met “homeless” guys who make $700 per DAY and welfare moms who spend hundreds of $ per month on their hair and nails while their kids get supplies/clothes/food from the school pantry. Buying power and lifestyle ARE part of the reason we’re not all in this together. Perhaps first we need to agree on what “poor” is, but people don’t agree on that either.

Chris Harwood

Kurt Wiesner

Older, helpful article on the subject of cell phones:

A Homeless Man With a BlackBerry Shows Us What Determination Looks Like. via @mobiledia


[Technological advances like cell phones mean today’s poor aren’t really poor: I smell FOX talking points. The minimum wage of FOX’s Good Old Days was (adjusted) much HIGHER than today’s, too!]

Just to add to what SusanF said: eating healthily takes much more TIME, too. Just ask someone working 3 jobs about the “Slow Foods Movement”: I dare ya…

JC Fisher

Meg Decker

I talk to homeless people regularly who have cell phones–how else are they to get in touch with employers and other resources? Does that make them middle class? Things like cell phones and an email address are pretty much necessities for participation in today’s economy, whether or not anyone had them back in 1983. Expectations may be different, but that doesn’t mean they are frivolous. And I know of no family on any sort of assistance who would be going on any sort of vacation. A little compassion, please.


I call foul. Obesity in lower socio-economic groups typically represents lack of access to healthy options, both financially and in terms of time. Cheap, fast calories are generally not healthy calories. Walk around poorer urban neighborhoods, and you’ll be assaulted by fat-laden fast-food aromas but see precious few examples of fresh produce. It’s the well-off who can afford to eat properly.

Susan Forsburg

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