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How “Classy” is America?

“These days Americans seem more class-confused than class-conscious. A Gallup Poll released last December suggests that Americans consider an annual household income of $150,000 to be rich—even though in the more expensive parts of our nation, this income is decidedly middle class…[and] nearly 20 percent of households earning at the poverty level ($15,000 or less annually) believe they’re solidly middle class.”

Race and Beyond: Are Americans in Denial about Inequality?

In tough economic times like we are currently experiencing there always seems to be a renewed focus on class inequality.  Would you say that “Income Inequality” is too great in America?  Is it getting worse or better? (research opportunity!)

You can look all the way back to Aristotle and find arguments about the necessity of minimal levels of inequality in a society for democracy or social harmony to work. Do you agree?

This notion that we don’t have classes in America is quite persistent.  As this article denote:

Fifty-eight percent of those polled rejected the view that the United States is a nation of “haves” and “have-nots,” compared to it being nearly 50–50 in 2004, when former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards drew headlines for pointing out “two Americas.”

Are there “two Americas?” When we talk about culture, particularly political culture, I feel it is very important to account for the extent to which capitalism infusings our culture.  Think about popular notions (think movies and television)- what common characteristics do we see associated with those who are poor?  Are those sterotypes true?


18 comments on “How “Classy” is America?

  1. Ciara
    February 9, 2012

    To me it does seem like there are two Americans, actually three. Like stated in the post $15,000 or below is considered to be on the poverty level. I say three Americans because there are those who have no income and have no where to live, there are those with the $15,000 or below income in which I am one of, and then those who are making more. If it wasn’t for all of these credits and loan opportunities how much could Americans afford on there own. The cost of living is high, and job wages really suck. Yes people are able to get a hold of things, but truly can’t afford them. Financing a car, getting a loan on a mortgage, applying for school loans etc are all common examples of people in struggles whether or not they know it It’s common so it’s accepted. Also all of these foreclosures! Is everyone around the world experiencing this crisis? America is in debt, so why are the people not? I think people tend to forget that part of life. However, I still do not let these things hold me back on living, and getting some of the things I have or want. Furthermore, movies do tend to portray either a rich person or a poor person. Sometime I think about this all of the stuff being damaged in movies, just so people can watch a film, while there are people who need help who have no home, no cars, and no money etc. One thing that kills me is the weddings. They look so great in a movie, but how many weddings actually look like that? A majority, or 64%, of Americans don’t have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 emergency expense, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, released on Wednesday.

    Only 36% said they would tap their rainy day funds for an emergency. The rest of the 2,700 people polled said that they would have to go to other extremes to cover an unexpected expense, such as borrowing money or taking out a cash advance on a credit card. This is a prime example that people do not have enough money as we think. If you are rich and wealthy you should not have any problems.

  2. Young Cho
    February 9, 2012

    The income Inequality in American is greater than it is and it is getting worse because of the gap between the poor and the rich. There are so many people in America who has lower income and barely making a living. However, instead there are also group of people who are really wealthy. These days Americans seem more class-confused and does not rage properly about the income class. For example, the 2005 research showed and revealed that the average CEO was paid $10 – $15 million annually. Some data sources indicate that the average American worker was paid about $40,000 in 2005. The majority of social scientists believe that this type of income inequality currently makes a serious problem for American society. According to Alan Greenspan, it is a “very disturbing trend.” A study by the Southern Economic Journal found that 71% of American economists believe the distribution of income in the U.S. should be more equal.There are not much equal income opportunities for American people.
    Income inequality

  3. Hyejin Helen Yi
    February 9, 2012

    Income Inequality

    Yes, I believe that there is an income inequality in America. I know that if my boss makes more than I do, that is understandable. However, I wouldn’t be too happy if my employer’s pay is between 250 and 500 times more that of the average American worker. In the end, this is not fair for me or them. I don’t think anyone is worth more than 250 times their average worker. If you do, you must have very low self-esteem.
    This is getting worse day by day. Many people in America inherit money and then use that money to bet on stocks and get bailed out when you fail. It seems like they are living on luck. “A report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) points out that income inequality in America has not risen dramatically over the past 20 years—when the top 1% of earners are excluded. With them, the picture is quite different.The biggest component of the increase in after-tax income for the top one percent is “business income” as opposed to income from labour or investments. I do believe that there are two types of Americans. One out if two is rich and the other poor. According to new supplemental data from the Census Bureau, nearly half of Americans—a shocking record number—have fallen under the poverty line or are classified as “low income” and barely scraping by. Many in the middle class have dropped to the low-income threshold. Inequality is a problem in America, but I do not think it will be changed anytime soon. Once again the rich are getting richer as the poor get poorer in America.

  4. Hafsha Nawreen
    February 9, 2012

    I agree with the article when it says that there are two Americas. Nowadays the income and class gap is getting bigger and bigger, we are losing the middle class potion every day. Many people do still classify themselves as middle class however. In my opinion, I feel like income inequality is far too great, but according to The Economist, the income inequality has not dramatically risen over the past 20 years. I do like a certain level of equality, it shows a good balance and it is harmonious for society. So I agree. Yes I agree that there are somewhat two Americas. There are the rich people who own businesses and make good money but then there are many many people who are struggling to make ends meet. The gap between them is still there but significantly smaller. Common characteristics are mainly minorities, drug problems, violence, job issues, etc. They are not all together but can be found. These stereotypes do hold truth but it is much grater than that nowadays.

  5. Lara
    February 9, 2012

    Capitalism prevails television!!! The popular TV shows are an escape from reality. No one is unemployed on TV, they aren’t drawing unemployment or have a stay at home dad while mom is out working because dad got laid off and can’t find a job. Instead the “real” housewives flaunt their millions, fairy tale sitcoms and movies are the norm, and the “low class” is primarily on reality TV or mocked through comedic sitcoms. So much is taken from television to become mainstream in popular culture. How many women really had a “Super Sweet 16” birthday party? Who cares what “the Situation” did on Jersey Shore? Why are these shows so popular to teenagers and what kind of adults are they going to become?!
    Many describe themselves as middle class to be humble or to be “normal.” According to the census the average household income was around $67,530 in 2010, which was down from $67,976 in 2009. Does that mean everyone that made less than that was considered poor or low class; and those that made more rich or upper class? I think Americans DO think in terms of social classes but there are things other than income that come to take into consideration.

  6. Jay Mehta
    February 10, 2012

    From beginning of history, we know that there is always an inequality between rich and poor, or lower class and upper class. And that tradition is still going on today. Our US Constitution say that ” All men are created equal and they have equal rights”. In my opinion its wrong. A poor or sometimes middle class family do not get all rights that they deserved. On television and in movies we watch that how a poor class man is facing so many problems in society and is not getting all the rights. And that is why sometimes they become murderer, robber, a criminal just so they can support their family. And those stereotypes we see in movies actually are true. In this bad economy there is only two social groups are left, Rich class and Poor class, the middle class has vanished because of these horrible economy. And the people who are rich they do not even care about this classes, because they only focus on their life. How their stuff has to be perfect, even though with that money they could help a society a little

    Social/Income Inequality

  7. Veejai Ashbey
    February 10, 2012

    I believe that income inequality is getting worse and worse, with the job market and unemployment still in a staggering state, I don’t think the low class will have a great chance to rise to a higher class. There’s definitely Two Americas, a rich America and a poor America. Both of them see the world differently. Common characteristics associated with the poor in movies and tv are normally people who live in the south, people who are jealous of the rich because they have money, they’re either portrayed as black or white trash, don’t have an education, have a troubled past and they are normally people with few inhibitions. Those stereotypes just aren’t true though because there are people of all kind that are poor and in low income situations.

    Income Inequality

  8. Heyjin Oh
    February 10, 2012

    This Article
    I would say that that the Income Inequality is not too great in America.
    Even when the two different “Americas” are mixed together, there still will be difference. I think it’s a division that cannot be combined or “solved”. The poor can always become the rich, and the rich can always become the poor. I feel that the inequality, not the American economics in general, is neither getting better nor getting worse. I think it’s necessary for a society to have at least a little bit of inequality for there to be harmony. There always have been, and there always will be. I think that there are more than just two americas. I think it’s very divided both economically and culturally. There different scales in America’s economy system, which leads to different life-styles and beliefs. Some stereotypes of the poor would be people who work a lot but still struggle to pay bills, which I believe are true in most sense.

  9. Junho Kang
    February 10, 2012

    This article and graph written by The Economist online shows that how the income inequality between 1% of Amerians and other Americnas has changed. There has been widening income gap since 1979. Of course, it is natural that income inequality exists. I think income inequality is necessary evil in a nation which follows capiltalism. I agree with Aristotle’s opinion, but in the U.S, the gap between two groups is errevocable like two Americas. People usually think that poors don’t try hard, so that they are poor. However, it is wrong. They have no opporunity to step up for upper class. There are some ideas, one of which is higher taxes for US super-rich. We need to do anything for reducing the gap, avoiding two Americas.

  10. RobinLTB
    February 10, 2012

    Class distinctions have always been around, they were there when the first settlers came to America, these people came from a world full of class distinctions, (royalty vs layman). What has confused people is that the founding fathers set up the American government, based it on the fact that all men are equal. Yet, you were only seen as equal if you were a land owning white male. If not, you were looked upon as inferior. Now-a-days it’s mostly about which income bracket do you fall into. Even in movies, especially in teenage movies it can be seen. It is always the rich popular girl vs. the poor unpopular girl, or the rich jock vs. the poor nerd who cant make friends but is in love with the rich popular girl etc. So yes, even though many do not want to openly admit it there are definitely two Americas, the privileged and under privileged. To further point this out, just looking at the statistics of the income gap between the top 1% and the rest of the nation, it has dramatically grown bigger over the last 10 years, surprisingly through the Great Recession that hit America in the last 5 years. Thus showing how income inequality has gotten worse of the years, with little hope of it getting better

  11. Adrian Durden
    February 10, 2012

    In today’s society and economy I think it is more than fair to say that we are more confused than ever about the ranking of social class and status. With everyone wanting to have the biggest and the best we as Americans clearly have no idea as to what class we belong. If your annual salary produces $150,000 and this qualifies you as rich then there’s a problem. Whatever happened to comfortable, well off or wealthy? Are we so focused on identifying ourselves as American s by the rich and poor? I think so. Unfortunately with the rapid decline of “Middle Class” Americans this
    issue is becoming more and more prevalent. I strongly believe that we should stop stereotyping and classifying people into these two categories, open our eyes and realize that there is more to this problem than rich and poor.

    Pew Social trends
    CNN Money

  12. Kathryn Lindsey
    February 10, 2012

    In the United States we are separated by class even though a lot of Americans probably would not think it is such a big deal. The occupy movement was a showing of how big that divide is. However, sometimes the protesters did not make up alot of the mainstream population and seemed to be students or those without jobs. The problem is the face of the jobless has changed and has become one of everyman. Those of us who thought it couldn’t happen to them seemed to be ones hit the hardest. Although I am not sure of how much a difference the occupy movement has made I do know it has put our class system in the media for all to see.this article

  13. david simpson
    February 10, 2012

    Yes i would say income inequality is too great in America. I believe that Income inequality is getting worse as shown on the graphs. Inequalitygraphs I agree because you can be financial stable and still feel miserable. Being financial stable doesn’t mean you are going to be a happy person it depends on what you do and how you go about things and how your relationships with others are. Yes there are two Americas there are fincially stable and unfincially stable Americas. Common characteristics we see with people are poor are that they are drug addicts, homeless, they have terrible jobs, etc. The sterotypes aren’t true because even if someone is poor it doesn’t mean they are addicted to drugs or stuff like that they could be in debt which hurt there chances of living somewhere else or they can be helping family due to there fincial problems or something. Being poor doesn’t mean your a bad person they can simply be taking care of someone else instead of themselves.

  14. Valerie Jenkins
    February 10, 2012

    The “Income Inequality” is too great in America and it’s getting worse. According to Inconvenient Income Inequality an Associated Press report taken back in December on census data found that “a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.” The report said that the data “depict a middle class that’s shrinking.” I would have to agree with Aristole. Some of the common characteristics we see in movies or tv that the poor is lazy, uneducated, have several kids and living off the government. I think the sterotypes can fit some but not all in this economy I have seen several people with PhD take a job making $10 an hour to provide for their families.

  15. Valerie Jenkins
    February 10, 2012

    The “Income Inequality” is too great in America and it’s getting worse. According to Inconvenient Income Inequality an Associated Press report taken back in December on census data found that “a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.” The report said that the data “depict a middle class that’s shrinking.” I would have to agree with Aristole. Some of the common characteristics we see in movies or tv that the poor is lazy, uneducated, have several kids and living off the government. I think the sterotypes can fit some but not all in this economy I have seen several people with PhD take a job making $10 an hour to provide for their families.

  16. Sarah Gao
    February 10, 2012

    Two AmericasAre there still two Americas, separate and unequal? One is rich, the other one is poor. One is on the right and one is on the left? They do not want the same America. I think poor people‘s characteristics are live in poor countries where opportunities are limited. Many suffer from ill health .Many are single parents who make enough money to support themselves but not their children. In America, most poor people they do not have jobs. A typical stereotype of the poor are lazy, and some people are hard workers, however, the lack of opportunity is an important factor as well, and it is also related to the economic.

  17. Cameron Degrafenread
    February 10, 2012

    I was never one to say that everyone should get their fair share of the pie. For the most part, I thought income inequality being referred to in a negative manner was a joke until. I saw income inequality as a chance to climb over others and one day, maybe be “rich.” You cannot have a rich without having a poor. But after seeing this article I feel that this could become an issue. It seems as if in the far future, there will be an elite and rich few, some middle income families, and masses of poor people. That does not sound like the democracy that I signed up for. Chances are that in a society like that, most people born would be doomed to live rather miserable lives. Income inequality is at its highest levels and appears to be steadily rising. In addition, 1% of Americans getting a quarter of the nations income is a scary thought. What does that mean for everyone else? This is starting to get slightly out of control. Still, how can anything be done without infringing upon other people’s wrights? If the gap grows to largely, much social harmony could be lost. There will always be two Americas, but how far apart they are will dictate whether we have a serious issue on our hands or not. If things keep going in the direction they are going now, some of the overly exaggerated stereotypes about the poor that we see in the media could become our sad reality.

  18. Jin You (@J1nYou)
    February 10, 2012

    Income Inequality is great in America. It is definitively getting worse than before.
    The study from a URL below show a global net worth, comparing how the wealth is being shared. Global Inequalities During the search, i have found some interesting source that I would like to share with you. Who Pays the highest taxes According to the studies, we, most commonly known as middle class (despite the fact that most middle classes are low classes), pay larger percentage of our income than presidential candidates. Therefore, I do believe that there is “two Americas ” when it is issued about our culture.

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