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Stiglitz writes: "Today, the United States has less equality of opportunity than almost any other advanced industrial country. Study after study has exposed the myth that America is a land of opportunity."

Joseph Stiglitz speaks at the World Economic Forum annual meeting, 01/26/11. (photo: Getty Images)
Joseph Stiglitz speaks at the World Economic Forum annual meeting, 01/26/11. (photo: Getty Images)


Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth

By Joseph Stiglitz, The New York Times

17 February 13

 

resident Obama's second Inaugural Address used soaring language to reaffirm America's commitment to the dream of equality of opportunity: "We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own."

The gap between aspiration and reality could hardly be wider. Today, the United States has less equality of opportunity than almost any other advanced industrial country. Study after study has exposed the myth that America is a land of opportunity. This is especially tragic: While Americans may differ on the desirability of equality of outcomes, there is near-universal consensus that inequality of opportunity is indefensible. The Pew Research Center has found that some 90 percent of Americans believe that the government should do everything it can to ensure equality of opportunity.

Perhaps a hundred years ago, America might have rightly claimed to have been the land of opportunity, or at least a land where there was more opportunity than elsewhere. But not for at least a quarter of a century. Horatio Alger-style rags-to-riches stories were not a deliberate hoax, but given how they've lulled us into a sense of complacency, they might as well have been.

It's not that social mobility is impossible, but that the upwardly mobile American is becoming a statistical oddity. According to research from the Brookings Institution, only 58 percent of Americans born into the bottom fifth of income earners move out of that category, and just 6 percent born into the bottom fifth move into the top. Economic mobility in the United States is lower than in most of Europe and lower than in all of Scandinavia.

Another way of looking at equality of opportunity is to ask to what extent the life chances of a child are dependent on the education and income of his parents. Is it just as likely that a child of poor or poorly educated parents gets a good education and rises to the middle class as someone born to middle-class parents with college degrees? Even in a more egalitarian society, the answer would be no. But the life prospects of an American are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in almost any other advanced country for which there is data.

How do we explain this? Some of it has to do with persistent discrimination. Latinos and African-Americans still get paid less than whites, and women still get paid less than men, even though they recently surpassed men in the number of advanced degrees they obtain. Though gender disparities in the workplace are less than they once were, there is still a glass ceiling: women are sorely underrepresented in top corporate positions and constitute a minuscule fraction of C.E.O.'s.

Discrimination, however, is only a small part of the picture. Probably the most important reason for lack of equality of opportunity is education: both its quantity and quality. After World War II, Europe made a major effort to democratize its education systems. We did, too, with the G.I. Bill, which extended higher education to Americans across the economic spectrum.

But then we changed, in several ways. While racial segregation decreased, economic segregation increased. After 1980, the poor grew poorer, the middle stagnated, and the top did better and better. Disparities widened between those living in poor localities and those living in rich suburbs - or rich enough to send their kids to private schools. A result was a widening gap in educational performance - the achievement gap between rich and poor kids born in 2001 was 30 to 40 percent larger than it was for those born 25 years earlier, the Stanford sociologist Sean F. Reardon found.

Of course, there are other forces at play, some of which start even before birth. Children in affluent families get more exposure to reading and less exposure to environmental hazards. Their families can afford enriching experiences like music lessons and summer camp. They get better nutrition and health care, which enhance their learning, directly and indirectly.

Unless current trends in education are reversed, the situation is likely to get even worse. In some cases it seems as if policy has actually been designed to reduce opportunity: government support for many state schools has been steadily gutted over the last few decades - and especially in the last few years. Meanwhile, students are crushed by giant student loan debts that are almost impossible to discharge, even in bankruptcy. This is happening at the same time that a college education is more important than ever for getting a good job.

Young people from families of modest means face a Catch-22: without a college education, they are condemned to a life of poor prospects; with a college education, they may be condemned to a lifetime of living at the brink. And increasingly even a college degree isn't enough; one needs either a graduate degree or a series of (often unpaid) internships. Those at the top have the connections and social capital to get those opportunities. Those in the middle and bottom don't. The point is that no one makes it on his or her own. And those at the top get more help from their families than do those lower down on the ladder. Government should help to level the playing field.

Americans are coming to realize that their cherished narrative of social and economic mobility is a myth. Grand deceptions of this magnitude are hard to maintain for long - and the country has already been through a couple of decades of self-deception.

Without substantial policy changes, our self-image, and the image we project to the world, will diminish - and so will our economic standing and stability. Inequality of outcomes and inequality of opportunity reinforce each other - and contribute to economic weakness, as Alan B. Krueger, a Princeton economist and the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has emphasized. We have an economic, and not only moral, interest in saving the American dream.

Policies that promote equality of opportunity must target the youngest Americans. First, we have to make sure that mothers are not exposed to environmental hazards and get adequate prenatal health care. Then, we have to reverse the damaging cutbacks to preschool education, a theme Mr. Obama emphasized on Tuesday. We have to make sure that all children have adequate nutrition and health care - not only do we have to provide the resources, but if necessary, we have to incentivize parents, by coaching or training them or even rewarding them for being good caregivers. The right says that money isn't the solution. They've chased reforms like charter schools and private-school vouchers, but most of these efforts have shown ambiguous results at best. Giving more money to poor schools would help. So would summer and extracurricular programs that enrich low-income students' skills.

Finally, it is unconscionable that a rich country like the United States has made access to higher education so difficult for those at the bottom and middle. There are many alternative ways of providing universal access to higher education, from Australia's income-contingent loan program to the near-free system of universities in Europe. A more educated population yields greater innovation, a robust economy and higher incomes - which mean a higher tax base. Those benefits are, of course, why we've long been committed to free public education through 12th grade. But while a 12th-grade education might have sufficed a century ago, it doesn't today. Yet we haven't adjusted our system to contemporary realities.

The steps I've outlined are not just affordable but imperative. Even more important, though, is that we cannot afford to let our country drift farther from ideals that the vast majority of Americans share. We will never fully succeed in achieving Mr. Obama's vision of a poor girl's having exactly the same opportunities as a wealthy girl. But we could do much, much better, and must not rest until we do.


 

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+55 # Walter J Smith 2013-02-17 16:52
We could begin with our elected leaders, if we had any competent enough on the left to use this wisdom on the right: "The right says that money isn't the solution."

The next time some GOP Senator insists that tax breaks and/or subsidies need to be available to the wealthy or to corporations, why not tell them that money isn't the solution?

Are left-leaning politicians inherently weak-kneed or just dim witted?
 
 
+17 # brux 2013-02-17 21:40
Good comment ... yes, the problem with many Lefties is that they are totally emotionally driven, they pander to the even more emotionally driven and we get the ineffectual party of nothing or just talk we see today.

Stiglitz has been in the middle of the what is happening on this planet, the World Bank, he knows the problems and the solutions, and what to do about them. He is a brain, any who gets the Nobel Prize is someone capable of backing down Republicans on their pretentious claimed superiority in business ... what Republicans are good at is corruption.

The Left needs to grow a brain, and install some balls in their representatives - and they will need courage, because when the left actually starts doing something we are going to see the same problems with violence and intimidation we saw in the 60's with Kennedy's and MLK ...

Most Americans do not want a Mafia country of thugs, and that is what we have today.
 
 
+16 # cmp 2013-02-18 08:24
"The top 200 Corporations in the world control 58% of the world's wealth
but only employ 0.25% of the world's population."
~David Korten, The Post Corporate World, 1999~

Whether it's Finance, Utilities, Media, Manufacturing, Service Sectors, Technologies, Agriculture or Mining, the new Colonialism is Corporate Monopolies.

Without an all out War of busting up Monopolies, we're gonna continue to be 1 small planet with 7 Billion very Big Problems...

You can have 10,000 Doctorate Degrees and you will never compete with the Corruption of a Monopoly. Goldman Sachs is 144 years old and how much competition do they have? How many AntiTrust cases have we had in the face of the mega merger era? Both of the Parties know this...
 
 
+5 # David Starr 2013-02-18 11:37
@brux: The left has the obvious tendencies within it as with any other side. I would say that the right has its own fanatical form of emotionalism: appealing to fear, hysteria, etc. Thus the left generally becomes outraged, and emotions can tend to run high.

The left has a brain, but it needs refinement, to mature further through experience, without losing fundamental principles.

You may be correct about a return of 1960s political conflicts/strug gles. It's more clear that the representatives in Congress will not have the kind of balls, if any, to support real, irreversible change, but rather, "change we can believe in."
 
 
0 # Depressionborn 2013-02-18 16:59
Equality of opportunity is a dream.

Opportunity is never equal, nor can it be made so. No two people will ever have the same opportunity. Neither is equality possible. Everyone is different. Equality of opportunity is not a bad dream, just an impossible one. Not that problems in education can't be fixed, they can, nor that financial thievery must continue, it doesn't.

It does mean that corruption of our institutions must end with moral solutions.
• Do that which you have agreed to do.
• Do not impose on the life or property of another.

Someone is likely to say you can find these in the Bible. Maybe so.
 
 
+11 # frankdavid 2013-02-17 22:28
They like their jobs too much. They are part of the aristocracy we have created in this country and they will not go away. If they are convicted of a crime.......sma ll chance......... they still insist on the right to appoint their successor...... .....that is not democracy...... ....that is feudalism.
 
 
+7 # BlueReview 2013-02-18 03:43
You're assuming that that GOP Senator will listen.
 
 
0 # flippancy 2013-02-19 07:21
They are blessed/cursed with the respect gene. Something the right doesn't. Well, they say the meek will inherit the Earth, but they don't say when.
 
 
+59 # Rick Levy 2013-02-17 18:00
I'm old enough to recall the days of free or low cost community colleges and inexpensive tuition at state universities. Those were the equal opportunity bootstraps by which the economically less fortunate managed to succeed. But those times are probably gone forever. My advice to American youth: Consider emigrating and getting your education abroad. The alternative is to pay an arm and a leg to pursue a degree, wind up in debt for student loans and unemployed.
 
 
+20 # Activista 2013-02-17 20:29
Agree - learn language - get education in Europe.
The same goes for the health care - emigrate - projected cost (savings needed) for couple over 65 (re AARP) is quarter of million - "retiree health care costs for more than a decade, estimates that a 65-year-old couple retiring this year will need $240,000 to cover future medical costs."
www.aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/info-12-2012/health-care-costs.html
 
 
+34 # ER444 2013-02-17 22:42
I have been living and working in Germany for 25 years. Hardship having to pay exhorbitant tuition fees is obviously not a matter of discussion here. I only really noticed the absence of this extreme pressure after my summer vacations in the States where my 60 year old friends are still paying off second mortgages after borrowing on their houses to put thier kids to school. (What do those do who don't have a house?) 2 years ago I became a professor in a University here and have been getting to know the system from within. It is a fact, if you can speak German well enough (you don't need to be perfectly fluent), have a highschool education and pass the entrance exams, you can study in Germany and pay the same €300 per semester fee. On top of all that you are offered affordable health insurance during your studies. Of course I would like to have my son study in the States to improve his already excellent English skills and broaden his horizons, but I would be crazy not to take advantage of a wonderful education system that I have been supporting with my tax dollars all these years. Oh yeah, to call it almost free fits in the same category as "there is no such thing as a free lunch". We all pay for the system, another example of the concept of "we" as opposed to the Republican concept if "me". The word "ego" comes from Greek and means "I am". The American way of life has become more egotistical and has forgotten how solidarity helps everybody including the rich.
 
 
+7 # colpow 2013-02-18 06:24
Well said and so true.
 
 
+12 # tclose 2013-02-18 08:37
You may also want to consider Canadian Universities, that have much lower tuition than in the States and have no language barrier - except maybe an "eh?" here and there.

I wish though that there was a simple solution to the problem that Prof. Stiglitz describes. It has taken 30 years of gutting our educational system to get us into this mess - it will take tremendous political will to get out of it. We could d start by taking money from our defense budget and putting that into tuition support.
 
 
+9 # flippancy 2013-02-19 07:27
Thank good ol' Ronnie Rayguns for the demise of free education and non-profit healthcare. I don't understand why people think he was so good, he was one of the most destructive politicians in our history at the time. Now the entire Republican party has worked to make him look good by becoming so much worse and trying unceasingly to destroy the country and make it a corporate operation.
 
 
+25 # brux 2013-02-17 21:41
The US has been eating its own since the 80's, and we are malnourished and misinformed ... and we apparently like it.

God, what happened to Americans?
 
 
+25 # jon 2013-02-18 07:51
Quoting brux:
The US has been eating its own since the 80's, and we are malnourished and misinformed ... and we apparently like it.

God, what happened to Americans?


Ronald Reagan
 
 
+2 # Walter J Smith 2013-02-20 14:27
You are correct, and it was symbolized by Reagan, but many forget he won a ton of Democratic votes, both in the elections and in his retarded proposals sent to Congress.

What happened began happening at least as far back as 1787, perhaps as early as the first Puritan who came here to slay dragons in the wilderness.

But today, that disease is rampant all over Washington, D. C., and it doesn't matter if any of those dragons are mere fantasies or have substance: any war is better than no war according to today's puritans: they are economic growth puritans first, and war is merely today's easiest expedient moving public money in that growth's cancerous direction.
 
 
+11 # wwway 2013-02-18 07:14
Thomas Friedman argues that "the world is flat." It is. I encourage my students to consider possibilities outside their comfort zone. It's what European youth have done for centuries. It's what our founding forefathers did.
Unfortunately for our children higher education is expensive because college boards decided they can get more money by overselling education to foreign students who's family will pay any price and make any sacrafice to afford to send their kids to our colleges. That baloon is going to burst for them eventually.
 
 
+4 # Activista 2013-02-18 19:46
selling education to foreign RICH students - bigger profit - petrol money - Saudis students dominate ...
 
 
0 # mdhome 2013-02-21 09:40
BUT, will a 65 year old be able to move and get the same health care as someone who lived in Europe all their lives???
 
 
+47 # Allen 23 2013-02-17 19:32
The wealthy accumulate wealth by appropriating the wealth created by those who sell their wealth creating power to the wealthy. Everyone who receives a paycheck enhances the wealth of the wealthy by being paid less than the amount of wealth they produce. If you do not produce excess wealth for
the wealthy, or otherwise contribute to the profit of the wealthy, your employment will be terminated.

The wealthy distribute that which they appropriate in a manner that in their judgment insures their continued accumulation of wealth. Those who best serve the wealthy are best compensated for their successful efforts at accumulation of wealth from the producers of wealth for appropriation by the wealthy.

People commonly understand the wealthy as creators of wealth rather
than appropriators of wealth. People desire to serve those whom they see
as the the source of wealth for a share of the wealth, misunderstanding
that in serving the wealthy they are serving the distributors of wealth, those who are also the appropriators of wealth, but not the producers of wealth.

Those who control this wealth then control governments; and through
those governments, the very lives of millions of people.

A people without economic sovereignty is a people without control over their governments, their livelihoods, their resources, their health and their very lives.
 
 
+19 # Activista 2013-02-17 20:30
NOT a democracy - but military oligarchy ..
 
 
+10 # brux 2013-02-17 21:44
Interesting. We used to have a system that put government and the people in the center of it, until it became too complex for governmental agents to understand and manage ... purposefully.

Keep everyone working 2 and 3 jobs and still in poverty and how are we supposed to have a democracy, or even represent most people ... there is no way.

I think a drastic increase in taxes and progressivity is needed - and we also have to get serious about who to invest in when we have so many losers and criminals that we have created too.
 
 
0 # Walter J Smith 2013-02-20 14:29
Yes, and it will only work at the most local level, where everyone can see through all the smoke screens.
 
 
+9 # Ray Kondrasuk 2013-02-17 22:41
Marx's "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need"
may have biblical inspiration:

ACTS 29 (I think...): And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.
(The New American Standard translation)

Now the updated quip: "From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed".
 
 
0 # vicnada 2013-02-18 08:40
‘The well-being of a community of people working together will be the greater, the less the individual claims for himself the proceeds of his work, i.e. the more of these proceeds he makes over to his fellow-workers, the more his own needs are satisfied, not out of his own work but out of the work done by others’. --Rudolf Steiner (1919)

http://wn.rsarchive.org/Articles/FuSoLa_index.html

"Every arrangement in a community that is contrary to this law will inevitably engender somewhere, after a while, distress and want. It is a fundamental law, which holds good for all social life with the same absoluteness and necessity as any law of nature within a particular field of natural causation. It must not be supposed, however, that it is sufficient to acknowledge this law as one for general moral conduct, or to try to interpret it into the sentiment that everyone should work in the service of his fellow men. No, this law only lives in reality as it should when a community of people succeeds in creating arrangements such that no one can ever claim the fruits of his own labour for himself, but that these go wholely to the benefit of the community. And he must himself be supported in return by the labours of his fellow men. The important point is, therefore, that working for one's fellow men and obtaining so much income must be kept apart, as two separate things."
 
 
+1 # Dr Peter Sloane 2013-02-18 01:06
Oh Amen to that.
 
 
0 # Depressionborn 2013-02-20 14:32
Dear Allen23

When you start a business remind me not to work for you. I mean when you lose your government job and have to produce something real. You sound like a really mean employer.

Good luck
 
 
0 # Walter J Smith 2013-02-20 18:43
He is and employer only in the sense of 'managing' others hired by someone else.

Insofar as he supposes himself to be a political or economic theorist, or a political economist, he is only a leech trying to sell dead blood as apple pie.
 
 
+30 # Rain17 2013-02-17 21:08
I went to a fairly expensive private liberal arts college for my BA. I got my Master's Degree from a well-respected university. For both degrees, although admittedly most of the debt is from graduate school, where there is little financial aid, I will be paying until sometime in the late 2030s or early 2040s.

But what I found astonishing is that the school I attended, which cost around $30K in the late 1990s, now charges about $60K per year. I graduated in 2000 and I find it amazing that somehow tuition has doubled. I find it hard to believe that the school's expenses have doubled in the time period.

What is sad is that my alma mater is a great school and it is, absent significant financial aid, now out of the reach of most middle-class families. I don't know where families today expect to get the money to pay for college.

In a lot of ways, much like the dot.com boom of the 1990s and the real estate boom of the 2000s, I suspect that higher education is another "bubble" waiting to explode. Eventually the tuition is going to rise too high and the debt load from current graduates will become too burdensome that there will be another economic crisis when default rates rise significantly.

More in the next post. . . . . . . .
 
 
+1 # Activista 2013-02-18 19:49
suspect that higher education is another "bubble" waiting to explode ... there are more serious bubbles - medical, dental, insurance ....
system based on maximizing PROFIT at ANY cost is BUBBLE - will not last long.
 
 
0 # Rain17 2013-02-20 14:23
But I suspect higher education will reach it soon because, at least in the case of my alma mater, there is going to be a point where even affluent families are going to blanche at the cost.
 
 
+36 # Rain17 2013-02-17 21:13
Continued from last post. . . .

The worst part is that it is all but impossible to discharge student loans via bankruptcy. Even the Supreme Court ruled that student loan companies could raid elderly peoples' Social Security checks. The fact that student loan debt is so large, coupled with the increasing debt burden that many students today have, points to an inevitable bubble bursting. One day in the future the system will collapse and economic pain will spread across the country.

You write:

"And increasingly even a college degree isn't enough; one needs either a graduate degree or a series of (often unpaid) internships. Those at the top have the connections and social capital to get those opportunities. Those in the middle and bottom don't. "

The internship system favors the rich and well-connected. Here in DC many of the most prestigious organizations with the most desirable positions don't pay, effectively closing off those opportunities to many people who can't afford to work for free. That system truly favors the wealthy and well-connected because they are able to work for free, while most other people can't without either going deeply debt or working three jobs. Fundamentally it is an unfair system that favors the wealthy.
 
 
-3 # egbegb 2013-02-18 13:33
The government has had much to say in recent years about internship and all the rights an intern has. Mr Stiglitz doesn't mention the unusually close correlation of the decline of opportunity and the rise of the size, scope and power of the federal government. I won't if he has considered that to be a factor?
 
 
0 # Rain17 2013-02-20 14:24
My take on unpaid internships is that they shouldn't exist. At the very least, even if an organization can't afford to pay interns a wage, they should at least pay for commuting costs and have some sort of stipend. When I was in graduate school I had to take an unpaid internship and it was very tough financially on me.
 
 
+16 # brux 2013-02-17 21:35
Stiglitz is a very important man in the American scene ...
He has a heart, and a brain, and is incredibly articulate in what he says and how he says it.

I read his "The Price Of Inequality" and after reading many other books by many other authors, his book more than all of them hits the nail on the head.

I would love to see Joe Stiglitz involved in politics, my dream ticket would be Stiglitz and Elizabeth Warren or Robert Reich, in some combination on the ticket or in a Democratic administration - - - hello President Obama!

The problem is that most Americans are not up to the intelligence level it takes to understand some of the advanced economic concepts he discusses. They could understand if they listened, listening is the problem, and getting a channel to be heard is the other side of that problem.

If anyone can get through to Americans it ought to be Stiglitz, a guy who has won a Nobel Prize in Economics, and is accomplished on the world stage ... in the World Bank ... who better than him to know what the problems are and how to fix them.

We are in deep doo-doo and we need a brain, not just a guy people want to have a beer with or a guy who can mesmerize us with speeches ... we need a real human being with vision, and Stiglitz has vision ... just read his book "The Price Of Inequality".
 
 
+3 # David Starr 2013-02-18 11:23
@Brux: Yes, the dumbed-down effect in the U.S. is something like a "disease." And, yes, economic practices are a major fault. I'll add ideology, where both feed on the other. The result? A Jerry Springer Show-like mentality.
 
 
0 # Activista 2013-02-19 19:52
Stiglitz is a very important man in the American scene ...
agree ... check his prediction of the Iraq War cost ... at time 80% of Americans were celebrating fireworks over Baghdad .. has Nobel price ... do not understand why he has not backing by politicians/gov ernment experts ... is everybody in power bought by the oligarchs?
 
 
0 # Walter J Smith 2013-02-20 18:47
The problem is too often, in my experience, when I ask others to read something serious, they simply have too many other things to do.

So deceive ourselves we must, until the popular rule becomes unpopular.

And then is may or may not be too late to have a compelling argument for 'where we are.' For the we may have reduced itself to many 'we' groups that already are identifiable as 'interest groups' as in classical 'interest group liberalism.'
 
 
+5 # brenda 2013-02-17 22:06
Ever since the emergence of 'corporate speak', a form of doublespeak used by corporations to look good on the outside to the public, but inside their walls they're rotten to the core with illegal activity regarding labor laws, occupational safety, illegal big business bribes that they refer to as 'modern marketing'. When I see the employment ads, and see the 'EOC' printed below their ad, I think to myself how full of crap they are. There's all kinds of shenanigans abounding inside their walls. You know, favoritism, brown nosing, prejudice.
 
 
0 # Depressionborn 2013-02-17 22:58
Something strange happened to education costs. Surely someone must know where the money goes. Why keep it secret ? In the 50's, my tuition was $89.00 a quarter at a respected major university. Well in reach of everyone we worked our own way through and never had to borrow.


About equality, I do not think wealth causes poverty. My great grandfather, with no English and no money or formal education, sailed from Norway in 1867 as a deck hand. It doesn't get much more unequal. As business man he hired, his success hurting no one. He did not destroy prosperity, he created it. And he prospered for himself, not society.
 
 
+1 # jtatu 2013-02-18 10:57
Depressionborn is correct, I think.
Another, but related point that there is no "near-universal consensus that inequality of opportunity is indefensible." Equality of opportunity is an impossible utopian myth. Even if the State took all newborns away from their parents and raised, nurtured and educated them in some homogeneous institution some would be smarter, dumber, faster, slower, stronger, better looking and the list goes on and on. And if Brux is right about Stiglitz, Stiglitz had an unfair advantage for being so much smarter than most.
 
 
0 # flippancy 2013-02-19 08:39
Equality of opportunity is not affected by differences in qualifications except for the differing opportunities of education provided by the higher intellect. The brilliant man with book learning holds no advantage over the average guy with an outstanding idea. (Other than access to easier funding of his crappy idea. e.g., Mitt Romney)
 
 
+1 # flippancy 2013-02-19 08:35
Quoting Depressionborn:
Something strange happened to education costs. Surely someone must know where the money goes. Why keep it secret ? In the 50's, my tuition was $89.00 a quarter at a respected major university. Well in reach of everyone we worked our own way through and never had to borrow.


About equality, I do not think wealth causes poverty. My great grandfather, with no English and no money or formal education, sailed from Norway in 1867 as a deck hand. It doesn't get much more unequal. As business man he hired, his success hurting no one. He did not destroy prosperity, he created it. And he prospered for himself, not society.


Yes, but your great-grandfath er was a good man. Psychiatrists say that about 60% of today's CEOs are psychopaths or sociopaths.
 
 
+5 # forthepeople 2013-02-18 00:44
Only a coalition of those who are not rich and are willing to risk what they have will provide a base large enough to overcome the inherent advantages of the ruling corporatists. Even then a positive outcome is not assured any more than it was when Pinkertons annihilated workingmen and honest "law" officers with impunity. None of this is new. It's time for our shared history to be shared. Upward mobility will never come as a gift of the elite. Real education is a right that must be taken and protected. No elite can be trusted to exercise power unless it is checked by the power of an awake and aware public. It is not upward mobility that we must seek. It is the rights to equality of all infants to a life of fulfillment.
 
 
0 # dovelane1 2013-02-19 22:30
Supposedly, the intent of our forefathers was to create a country where everyone had access to a good "quality" of life. At some point in the 1800's, the focus changed to how much "quantity" of things, and people, a person in power could control.

This culture is based on the idea that competition is the way to go about doing things. The attitudes of competition, and "rugged individualism" support those in power, and support their gaining and maintaining that power.

Are not most, if not all, patriarchal societies are based on competition? Isn't there a connection between competition and the "old boys club?"

All the ills this society faces are but symptoms of a culture that glorifies competition, glorifies winning at any cost, that glorifies having power over others. Too many of us learn to give too much power to those who they have learned to see as the "elite."

I think it was Germaine Greer who said it is hard to fight enemies who have their outposts in our heads. Those outposts were set up by the socialization people go through learning to value what, in the long run, divides and conquers those of us in the 99%.
 
 
+16 # CragJensen 2013-02-18 05:40
There is a fine line between capitalism and fascism. And the line is crossed when corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals take control of the government. And in America many of us are under the illusion that our system was set up to serve the better interests of all of the "People." It wasn't, at least not initially. It was set up to favor white, land-owning males twenty-one years of age or older. However - over the past two hundred and thirty-odd years, the system has made adjustments that make it (the system) more favorable to all of it's people. And it is these adjustments; these reforms over the years that have made this country strong. And this because the system was then able to tap into a much wider pool of talent because it had educated and otherwise encouraged and supported that much wider pool of talent. Yet, with things going the way they have been going - the US is bound for social, financial and cultural calamity on a scale yet unimagined. Theodore Roosevelt knew that tyranny by the wealthy was an evil a free society could not tolerate but here we are over a hundred years later - living in a society where tyranny by the wealthy is whole-heartedly supported by the party Teddy once belonged to. And, quite frankly, I really don't think Theodore would be at all happy about what is currently happening with the party he once affiliated himself with and/or in his beloved America as a whole. But I have an idea that Adolf Hitler just might be.
 
 
+7 # wwway 2013-02-18 07:05
America was founded on religious freedom. That's a myth we all learned in 2nd grade. European investment in finding new economic opportunities eventually led to the development of the United States of America. Facts are not as romantic as notions of freedom.
 
 
+2 # tabonsell 2013-02-18 17:08
How right you are.

The "Pilgrims" we celebrate so much left England for religious freedom in 1607 (worth checking), but they went to Belgium.
They found it was difficult making a living there so they entered into a contract with the London Company to establish an agriculture colony in the Western Hemisphere, coming to this land on a ship the London Company had leased.

Our Pilgrims came here for economic reasons, not religious freedom, and they found several other colonies already in existence when they got here.

But we love myth in the US and this story is as mythful as is the contention that conservative economics work.
 
 
-6 # jtatu 2013-02-18 07:07
Stiglitz fails to mention the obvious disparity in parenting skills and role models. Maybe we could learn from the French and ban homework because it discriminates against children living in homes that are not conducive to doing homework.
 
 
-1 # dovelane1 2013-02-19 22:59
jt - Your comment makes me wonder what kind of parenting skills and role models you encountered growing up.

The other side of the "opportunity" coin is the "discrimination " coin. As someone who was discriminated against, and mostly ostracized, from 5th grade to the end of high school, not because of my race, gender, or sexual affiliation, but simply because I happened to be different from the norm at that time, I believe my opportunities for equality, and a quality of life, were greatly diminished. Growing up in an abusive family did not help either.

I succeeded in surviving then, and still do, but I'm not sure I have ever truly "lived." There will always be issues of trust. It's hard to live with, or be around, people I don't trust, and I don't trust you or the attitudes you promote and engender, as they seem based on fear.

Beware the sincere simplifier, whose message is sprinkled with fear and hate.
 
 
+4 # eadg 2013-02-18 07:33
"All animals are equal BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS"

The main tenet of the animals later 'corrected' by the pigs who subsequently gained and gave themselves absolute power.
 
 
-3 # Depressionborn 2013-02-18 09:22
wwwway

Writers of the Mayflower Compact did not agree. It is still available. You should have finished second grade
 
 
-1 # dovelane1 2013-02-19 23:07
Deppression - Given the variability of education, there is the possibility that some of us didn't learn the same things you did in second grade. Maybe we learned them in first, or third, or maybe we didn't learn them at all.

I don't mind the corrections, but I didn't like the comment, and the underlying assumption you made about wwwway, and your attempt to put this person down. Was it to make yourself seem better in your eyes?

Please, lighten up - you're neither that important, or that unimportant.
 
 
+2 # Kenwood 2013-02-18 09:41
OK. Just encourage all those highly qualified and skilled foreigners to bring their skills here to develop our economy! Their skills are already paid for. It's a done deal!
 
 
+1 # David Starr 2013-02-18 11:14
The "American myth-making" was there from the start. U.S. founders were immortalized, thus a cause for myth-making. But thier fondness for empire and maintaining slavery are part of the roots of their nation-making. Further amendments provided positive change. But the myth still remains. And thus, inequality also.

Keep the U.S. Constitution/Bi ll of Rights out of the myth-making. And see the latter for what it really is.
 
 
+1 # Anarchist 23 2013-02-19 09:19
'After 1980'-can you say Reagan? The policy and the course this nation has been following is quite clear-where in history do you want to start? But by 'After 1980"-how coy-with the Reagan government-the first-off busting of PATCO-which has now resulted in slow and steady decrease of worker's standard of living, and the elimination of many good-paying and secure jobs-the kind that allowed you to raise a family and own a house-those too have been steadily decreasing-and opportunities for everyone in every sector have been shrinking. Well,-prison guard and private security have been growing! And low wage retail. Unless we truly comprehend the problem from all angles, we will be nothing but 'Good Germans' in every way-blind to our reality, following our illusions to ultimate destruction. Given what is happening with the climate, I doubt it can be avoided, but we can still fight for our morality-not the cheap mouthings of the Fundies but a true humanitarian morality.
 
 
0 # wrknight 2013-02-20 07:21
At one point in time, it was the land of opportunity, but that time has long since past. When all of the nation's natural resources were grabbed up, much of that opportunity vanished.
 
 
0 # ginnym 2013-02-20 10:48
Anyone left after the inevitable revolution WILL be meek. The elite know it coming. But America is asleep at the wheel.
 

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