In a candid conversation with Frank Rich last fall, Chris Rock said, “Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.” The findings of three studies, published over the last several years in Perspectives on Psychological Science, suggest that Rock is right. We have no idea how unequal our society has become.
Why the discrepancy between belief and reality?
According to Pew Research, most Americans believe the economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, but 60% believe that most people can make it if they’re willing to work hard. Senator Marco Rubio says that America has “never been a nation of haves and have-nots. We are a nation of haves and soon-to-haves, of people who have made it and people who will make it.” Sure, we love a good rags-to-riches story, but perhaps we tolerate such inequality because we think these stories happen more than they actually do.
We may not want to believe it, but the United States is now the most unequal of all Western nations. To make matters worse, America has considerably less social mobility than Canada and Europe.
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“Americans actually live in Russia, although they think they live in Sweden.”
Remember the movie, E.T.? When that darling extraterrestrial character pointed to space longing to return to the place he once called home? Well, Americans are like E.T., we too want to go home to the place that America used to be.
It used to be a nation of opportunity, but now America is a war mongering, oligarchy – with blood on its hands and obscene inequality, all thanks to unfettered greed and advanced weapons technologies.
It’s time for Americans to turn this ship around and take it back to where it used to be – a place where individual (not corporate) rights are respected and everyone has opportunities.
In the words of Jacque Fresco, ‘this shit’s gotta go!’ but do Americans have what it takes to make that dream a reality?