October 8, 2010

On perceptions and reality

I went to my surgeon this morning and he approved me losing the sling and driving. I assume that means I can now start cursing again. Because, of course, I stopped all that after the surgery.


SOF alerted me to this interesting story about how Americans perceive wealth and poverty distribution in this country. Turns out, just as with our perception of how much of our national budget we devote to international aid (perception between 10 and 20 percent, while the real number is less than 1%) we are way off on wealth inequality. While the real number is that somewhere around the top 20 percent controlling 85% of the wealth in this country, people perceive that top 20 percent as controlling only 35% of the wealth, and when further asked what they would like to see, they want that wealth to be even more fairly distributed than that. The good news of this, as it appears, is that this belief crosses party lines. The bad news, is, however, that ignorance drives our political discourse and actual votes more than reality. Hence Sharon Angle--who is demonstrably an idiot.

The piece makes the obvious point that this goes back to that belief in the American dream--upward mobility, or the bootstrap myth. But the reality (if facts matter, btw) is that our social mobility is much less than it has been. Countries like Sweden (damn blonde socialists) actually have more opportunity for the poor to rise to the top. But don't tell the Republicans that. They are trying to cut the taxes of the wealthy as we speak.

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