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The Dream Hoarders: How America's Top Percent Perpetuates Inequality (bostonreview.net)
87 points by huihuiilly 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments

I'm really interested to see how this is received here on Hacker News where articles like "Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company" get a warm reception. I really think that 'startup culture' and 'dream hoarding' are way more integrally linked than anyone on this website would like to admit. The success of many a startup relies on investors whose capital comes entirely from the concentration of wealth and the lack of redistribution. Then their continued success as enterprises very often hinges on their own ability to hoard, concentrate, and 'reinvest' their own wealth.

And whenever someone makes the point I'm making in this post, people rush in to point out that you can do so much good with lots of money. As if that somehow runs in opposition to hoarding it from being used by the broader population in the first place. It's as if you caused the collapse of an entire economic structure and then said 'but look what I'm going to do with all these resources!'.

Also: for me, the most interesting part is that I would have no problem with this system if there wasn't such a miserable bottom rung beneath them, i.e. the poorest of poor in the USA. If we had actually reached some post-scarcity conditions and the poorest among us were still well off, then I would be much less concerned about the ethics of startups. But as it stands, I think the startup/VC world needs to have a reckoning with their place in all of this... not that it will actually happen.

edit: it was downed off the front page in an hour.

I have similar feelings whenever people point out that "tax break X favours the rich!" (today, X is 529 college saving plans).

I mean, duh. Half of the US federal income tax comes from 1% households. The rich disproportionately pay tax. If poor people had enough money to pay significant amounts of tax they wouldn't be poor; they only get charged anything to enforce a perception of fairness and give them some skin in the game.

Any tax break is going to favour the wealthy; because as a rule the median tax dollar came from someone wealthy.

Poor people do pay significant amounts of tax, just not "federal income tax". They do pay two other federal taxes on income (one is a fixed rate, the other actually decreases in rate at higher incomes). They also pay state and local taxes, which are usually much flatter than federal taxes and frequently the poor actually end up paying a larger portion of their income on state and local taxes.

Don’t most U.S. based poor still have housing, food, cable television, air conditioning, heat, cell phones, and access to public libraries with WiFi?

It’s not luxury but isn’t it major progress vs 100 years ago?

At the risk of being demeaning, this could only be a reply from someone with money who knows no one without it. Go travel around the poorest areas in the US and spend time talking to people, you'll learn really quickly how little access to cell phones or public libraries with WiFi are improving their life.

Sure almost everyone in this country has a computer in their pocket, they also very often have no access to fresh groceries at the same time. The town I grew up in is 60% below the poverty line and the nearest grocery store with fresh produce is a 30 minute drive away. That's over 800 people in one city who eat frozen gas station food on a daily basis. Do you think their wifi access and cable television is a good measure of their quality of life? They've also had to shutdown the local hospital recently. Meaning their already-terrible access to healthcare just got that much worse. Most people there only visit a doctor once every 5 years.

And I can already imagine the replies to this "well, times are changing, they're living in a dying region". Which... while true... doesn't come close to forgiving the systemic problems that put them in this situation. Systemic problems that by no measure had to come to fruition, if we had only had a stronger system of wealth distribution and thus physical and educational support for the people at the bottom of the pile.

Also, for the record, they're actually closing the library in my hometown.

Something many people may be unaware of, is that one cannot receive food stamps without a physical street address. Meaning that the numbers on food stamps and the numbers of homeless are for the most part 2 separate groups of people. Combined, they easily represent half the population. And I insist that census statisticians constantly downplay homeless stats, for two reasons. Because the real numbers are embarrassing, and because you cannot hit a moving target.

About 9% of US households use food stamps at some point in the year [0]. About 0.17% of US people are homeless on a given night [1]. Nowhere near half.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supplemental_Nutrition_Assista...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homelessness_in_the_United_Sta...

And by my years in the streets do I insist that such figures are full-on lies, lies told to comfort the masses away from throwing trashcans through shop windows and burning down city hall and the like. Most of said masses don't look away from their screens long enough to see the real picture.

And a grinding, dehumanizing bureaucracy to prove that you need access to assistance of various kinds, plus various disincentives to work as assistance drops off faster than your income grows.

USDA estimates that 12% of households qualify as "food insecure": https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/fo...

Adult Medicaid recipients often have only "emergency services", aka having your teeth pulled, as part of their benefits: https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/dental/index.html

All-in-all it's not pretty being poor in America, even if you have cable TV and heat to distract you from the mountain of paperwork where you have to repeatedly state how much help you need and the gaps in your teeth and the "joy" of paying with food stamps at the store.

All while hearing rhetoric from certain politicians saying how people "leech" from the system and actively try to remove these services.

Let’s not hold back. Mitch McConnell, wants to punish the poor for being poor.

Milton Friedman recognized this and proposed a solution half a century ago.


Is that a reasonable metric to use? (edit: ... to declare success?)

We can have major progress and still not have sufficient progress. We can make major improvements and still feel like we have a long way to go.

Just because we're better off than our grandparents doesn't erase that some of us are relatively badly off against today's standard, and we could be doing more to help those who are at the bottom of our socioeconomic ladder.

> Is that a reasonable metric to use?

Yes, it is. There is hyperbole on both sides of this debate. Being able to show we've made historic progress makes future potential progress look more realistic. It shows our institutions are capable of solving this problem.

That's fair! Assuming you are making the argument that we are making progress.

I should amend my statement to say, "Is that a reasonable metric to use to declare success?" I regularly bump into folks who say, "Well, what more should we do? We're already better than we were 100 years ago."

> I should amend my statement to say, "Is that a reasonable metric to use to declare success?"

Got it. I think there may be confusion between a metric and a threshold. The metric being certain objective measures of quality of life. The thresholds being where we were 100 years ago, where we are today, and where we should be today.

More broadly, anyone "declaring success" on such a broad question is--at best--deluded. More common is people throwing their hands up at what looks like an insurmountable problem. I've found pointing out the often-unappreciated magnitude of recent historical performance to be useful in that respect.

> today's standard

If you keep moving the goal posts, you'll never get there.

Isn't moving the goal posts the whole point, though? If we didn't do that then we would declare "mission accomplished" as long as everyone wasn't sleeping on a dirt floor and dying of malaria. Social welfare success should always be a moving target relative to the ability of the society in which it exists to create it.

The poor can afford food, but of what quality? Looking at the pricing of shitty food vs quality food, it's pretty obvious that the poor are disproportionately consuming crap, with all the attendant health problems that brings. Health problems that they are unlikely to be able to afford to effectively treat.

Yes, by many measures, life for the poorest in the first world is far less miserable than it was 100 years ago. But still pretty miserable as anyone who has been poor - really poor - knows. Dickensian quality of life shouldn't be used as a the baseline against which we measure ourselves in the 21st century.

Not in California, for example, which has taken Dream Hoarding to the extreme.

AC, Heat, cell phones, internet are all easily achievable, sometimes with an RV or a car. But housing has been hoarded to an extreme, locking out all sorts of people.

Today's middle class fair better than medieval royalty. So what?

We're not comparing today's poor to yesteryear's.

We're comparing today's poor to today's robber barons.

This is such a great analogy.

I suppose if a business has a desk, printer, phone, and employee, we can count it as successful too.

There are plenty of people who would then politely point out that if the poorest Americans aren't poor enough for you, we can look at the problems of the poorest people on the planet and say that it's pretty fucked conditions they're living in considering how the top 20% of Americans are spending their money.

Or, tl;dr- "Better" still isn't good enough.

>relies on investors whose capital comes entirely from the concentration of wealth

Not entirely. A lot of the VCs (and also hedge funds, private equity) get money from regular people like us in the form of pension funds. Think of retired teachers, firemen, grandmothers, etc. E.g. the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund was one of the investors in Union Square Ventures.

Yes, some money does come from wealthy family offices like the Vanderbilts but the huge pension funds trying to meet their obligations have even more money to invest.

You be seriously claiming that? It's literally an easily provable falsehood. Just because there are some pension funds investing in stocks and VCs doesn't mean it's a meaningful component, they are one of the smallest pieces of the pie.

Your comment is quite literally just wrong. Your average American has relatively no direct stake in financial systems. Notice the word "average". Most people on HN tend to mistake that for meaning them. You are not average if you have enough wealth to think that investing money is normal, even in pensions. Estimates of the percent market investment tied up in pensions is something between 5% and 15%

https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2013/ted_20130103.htm https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/13/heres-how-many-americans-hav... https://protectpensions.org/2018/01/02/united-states-without...

>some pension funds investing in stocks and VCs doesn't mean it's a meaningful component, they are one of the smallest pieces of the pie.

In the case of Union Square Ventures, the majority of the money in their 2004 fund came from pension funds. It's all public information.

>Estimates of the percent market investment tied up in pensions is something between 5% and 15%

Your 3 links and the "5 to 15%" math are not relevant to my point. Let my try to put it another way. Let's say you looked at the LPs (investors) of a VC fund that raised $400 million. The list of wouldn't be filled with just the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. The money sources do not entirely from the concentration of wealth.

Instead, a lot of the money comes from retirement pension funds, charities trying to stretch out their donations, university endowments, etc. And it's not just the public & private pension funds in the USA. Canada and Europe pensions also invest in VC funds.

And yes, pretty much every pension fund[0] invests in a mix of alternative assets including private equity, hedge funds, and venture capital. Pension fund managers can't meet their financial obligations by only parking their billions in T-Bills or only investing in a passive index. They need the higher returns of those alternative investment vehicles.

[0] examples of public pension funds with funding shortfalls: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_employee_pension_plans_...

Not for much longer.

Pensions were eliminated in most employers in favor of 401k or other types of investment vehicles, and so Pension funds will get more rare and smaller over time.

The day of the Pension Fund is largely over.

The modern alternative to Pension Funds are Hedge Funds.

The difference is that Hedge Funds are created by the ultra-wealthy, for the ultra-wealthy. And their only purpose is to generate massive amounts of more wealth, for the ultra-wealthy.

>And whenever someone makes the point I'm making in this post, people rush in to point out that you can do so much good with lots of money. As if that somehow runs in opposition to hoarding it from being used by the broader population in the first place. It's as if you caused the collapse of an entire economic structure and then said 'but look what I'm going to do with all these resources!'.

Right, but that is sort of the point I think. Sure you may have collapsed the economic structure for the moment, but when you say "but look at what I'm going to do with all these resources!" its because you (assuming good faith) intend to use the hoarded resources to make some lasting improvement. You have the resources, so you can make a discovery or something that leads to not as many resources needed for the future. Its obviously not the best methodology, but it is one.

I mean, I suppose that's comforting in the long term. In 500 years I think everyone alive will be just fine that it happened. But as a human alive and on the planet today, I find it painfully lacking. I mean, I even mentioned in my first post that it would probably be just fine if the consequences for specific subsets of our society weren't so dire.

As an analogy: if you were living in an isolated tribe of 300 people and the smartest 5 people got together and said: "we have an idea! if you give us 50% of the tribe wealth we can make the lives of our great-great grandchildren wonderful. We've done the math and we acknowledge that 60 people will die unnecessarily and 50 families will lead miserable lives for the next few generations... but we're going to do great things!" I would much prefer if someone stood up and said: "how about we do this slowly, live happy lives now, and then our great-great-great grandchildren can live great lives".

As in: what do individuals and small groups of individuals see such need to be the personal figurehead of success in a society, especially at such great costs to those below them? I refuse to accept that it's OK to moralize someone's actions by letting them say "but I'm going to help everyone from my throne." It sounds more like justifying greed and less like benevolence to me.

Also, I'm of the cynical belief that the phrase 'assuming good faith' is a pretty goddamn big assumption.

Effective altruism is the Gospel of Wealth for the new millennium.

There tends to be a fair amount of cognitive dissonance and whataboutism on HN regarding inequality. It usually takes the form of one of the following:

"The 1% are just normal successful people (who happen to also be the NIMBY ladder pullers who often perpetuate inequality in unintentional ways), it's the 0.1% we should be talking about!"

"Don't blame smart, motivated people for making money (and pursuing growth-at-all-cost companies that often provide little value to people who aren't yuppies), anyone could learn to code and pull themselves up by their bootstraps!"

And my favorite, "These authors don't understand basic economics! Tech people are expanding the economy and creating wealth for everyone (when your definition of 'everyone' is mostly people with enough money to be investors or enough youth to be startup employees), so of course it makes sense that we're getting richer faster than 99% of the population!"

I personally view it as the Pareto principle at play.

If we were to equally distribute resources among the entire population, over time we would see those resources begin to bunch up into the top 20% of society due to superior abilities (intelligence, business instinct, skills, etc.)

As time continues, then resources continue to pile up at the top 20% of the initial 20, and so on, and so on...

I might be okay with that, if there was no possibility for ultra-wealth to be inherited from one generation to the next.

Make each generation work hard for their wealth, and you avoid the concentration of wealth that occurs because it is also a concentration of political power, at which point the sole purpose for that wealth and power is to accumulate more wealth and power and give their kids an insurmountable advantage over the next generation of kids.

> The success of many a startup relies on investors whose capital comes entirely from the concentration of wealth and the lack of redistribution.

But they are redistributing the money precisely by investing it in startups.

I did a back of the envelope calculation for techie scum and how much we make on average.

If we assume that there are two million of us, each earning on average $200,000 and saving $80,000 of that it means our wealth as a class grows by 160,000,000,000 per year. The Forbs Rich List's wealth increased by 2,900,000,000,000 last year.

You can see the three extra zeros at the end. It's not the top 20% or the techie scum, or whichever other group is currently not underwater that's destroying the economy.

It's much easier to make those with nothing attack those with little for the benefit of those with everything than to fix the economy.

> You can see the three extra zeros at the end. It's not the top 20% or the techie scum, or whichever other group is currently not underwater that's destroying the economy.

Thing I find grimly humorous is how doctors have been waking up to the realization that they're just 'the help' and the over-class think's they make too much.

Also like tech scum dogs the tax structure is designed to keep they and their spawn from breaking through into the over-class.

Progressive tax rates inhibit social mobility by making it difficult for those lower down on the ladder to accumulate wealth.

The system is designed to only allow people that made their money 'the right way' into the over-class. Which in this case means passive capital gains vs active or earned.

So you can 'invest' half a million and 12 years to become a doctor and get hit with close to 50% taxes if you are successful. And the amount of your student loan expenses that's deductible is nil.

Compare with borrowing half a million to 'invest' in stocks.

Interest on student loan debt is tax deductible, not the principle. Interest on margin debt is tax deductible, not the principle.

It's the same.

Also 'investing' in stocks is investing. It's not a fake investment or a scam. Lower income people pay 0% taxes on capital gains, and some online brokerage houses charge 0% commission.

Essentially, anyone can invest in the stock market. It's a lot better than 'investing' in lottery tickets. There I used the quotes appropriately, because lottery tickets are gambling, not investing.

The difference between investing and gambling is investing is when the mathematical odds are in your favor, gambling is when they are not.


> https://www.irs.com/articles/tax-deductions-for-student-loan...

$2500 if you're school teacher making $50k/year. Bupkis if you're a doctor making $200k/year.

> Also 'investing' in stocks is investing.

See useless zero sum activities.

> See useless zero sum activities.

You could apply the same reasoning to every trade where someone wants something someone else wants to sell.

> If we assume that there are two million of us, each earning on average $200,000 and saving $80,000

At least the last two of those numbers seem very high to me. $200k might be the average if you're just looking at major metro tech markets like SF and NYC, but that's not going to get you anywhere near 2m people is it? I suspect the true average compensation for technology professionals is less than half that.

The point is that even with the highest possible numbers us techie scum are still a rounding error to the national economy. Which makes us an incredibly useful punching bag for the economist who wants to try his hand at populism without jeopardizing his tenure.

I think the gross OVER estimation helps his point. Even if those things are true (they feel extremely high to me) the other group he's pointing out is substantially worse in the grand scheme of things.

I grew up poor as hell, but people all around me kept saying, "stay in school, study, work hard, and you can rise above this." I believed them, and I did - and here I am, actually living a pretty comfortable life, giving my kids the things my parents never could. But I've always suspected that somehow, some way, somebody was going to come along and take all of this away from me and make sure that I would die as poor as I was born. If it does happen, this will be how.

How? By restoring the marginal tax of 70% to income over $10m?

You can distribute that money to literally 1 billion people and everyone would still get $2,900. It's a truly unbelievable amount of money.

I'm not making $200k. And if I was living in a place where I could make $200k, then I certainly wouldn't be able to save $80k -- not when the average 1BR apartment in that area was going for $2100 per month in 2013, and there has been at least 20% YOY compound growth in the years since.

The top 1% control 40% of the US's wealth, while the next 9% after that control... 36%. But most of that 9% still have to work at something resembling a real job.

So I see nothing wrong with focusing on the top 1%.

That's incorrect. The government controls most of the US wealth. For starters, the government spends 40% of the GDP. Add to that the value of the military, roads, buildings, schools, etc., and all the land the government owns.

This is actually correct.

Wealth and Democracy: How Great Fortunes and Government Created America's Aristocracy by Kevin Phillips


Similarly, the USA previously decided three times to explicitly create its middle class. The New Deal, the Homestead Act, etc. Policy choices which were hard fought and narrowly won.

The middle class existed long before 1930. In fact, the middle class was well established in colonial times. The growth of the middle class in the 19th century can be seen in spectacular gains in life expectancy, infant mortality reduction, and average height.

I have to roll my eyes at these articles that say we should be angry at the second to top quintile- a quintile whose total wealth is something like 12% of the national total.

The middle quintile holds about 3% of national wealth.

Thats really low, but the 60-80% group isn't exactly high or disproportionate.

We're talking about a real power law distribution of wealth in the USA, and it's downright counterproductive to scold or shame the hockey stick before the blade.

Yes, I suspect one could probably show that increasing inequality is most tied to a decline real median wage and that tax inequality is a fairly small factor.

Sometimes that middle class protects its turf but there is much more going on.

This article isn't about the second to top quintile, it's about the top quintile. "America's Top 20 Percent" is right there in the title.

The HN title is missing the "20".

Heh - did someone type '%20' into the HN submission form? If that were turned into a URL parameter on clicking Submit, then the %20 would be interpreted as a space. Just a theory. Been troubleshooting too much today perhaps...

The 529 tax plan anecdote at the beginning was interesting -- a Democrat proposed a reasonable change to the tax code that was scuttled by other Democrats because it would alienate their base.

It reminds me of some other sensible tax policy that the Democrats have been trying to eliminate for a while -- the SALT deduction and the mortgage deduction. The GOP did them a huge favor by eliminating those deductions.

When the Democrats eventually gain control again, I suspect those deductions will be left out.

It's a good example of how broad based politics is dead. 90% of the public is locked out of the political process completely.

Vox had some good criticisms of this book when it came out in 2017.


> But it is a stubborn mathematical fact that, at any given time, the top fifth of the income distribution can accommodate only 20 percent of the population. Relative intergenerational mobility is necessarily a zero-sum game. For one person to move up the ladder, somebody else must move down.

The author is hung up on the idea that there will always be a bottom 20% and an top 20%. Might as well bay at the moon.

I disagree with that assessment. You are, in my opinion, being overly reductive.

The author is recognizing that there is a power disparity between different income brackets, and that power disparity is used to limit upward mobility. No wealthy family wants their children to be less successful than they were, and they can invest much more time and resources into ensuring their children are successful than the bracket below them.

This is at odds with the 'American Dream' that's sold to many of us -- that this is a country of limitless economic mobility if you just put in the elbow grease.

Defining the lowest quintile as poor and then complaining that there's no way to escape the math is ridiculous.

Shocker: the top 20% possess superior values, habits, and cultural systems for social success and upward mobility, and make choices to gear themselves and their children towards development of important skills to thrive in the modern workplace.

Disappointed that 4,000 words of herd morality drivel is upvoted on HN. Guess it's en vogue everywhere, even here.

Fairly reductive to pin their success on just these things and not more structural issues that even you would probably acknowledge exist. Obviously some succeed despite that, but that's not really the point of the article or your own comment, and you seem to have arrived at this conclusion before even considering the deeper reasons for why this happens.

Sure, there's a deeper conversation to be had. This ain't it:


Upper middle-class parents obviously have more money to spend on their children, but there is also a social fracture. Class is not only defined in dollars, but by education, attitude, and zip code, by its way of life. America, warns Robert Putnam in Our Kids, faces “an incipient class apartheid.”

The typical child born and raised in the American upper middle class is raised in a stable home by well-educated, married parents, lives in a great neighborhood, and attends the area’s best schools. They develop a wide range of skills and gain an impressive array of credentials. Upper middle-class children luck out right from the start, even though this country was founded on antihereditary principles.

As part of the process of naturalization, I had to sign part 12, question 4 of Form N-400, which reads as follows: “Are you willing to give up any inherited title(s) or order(s) of nobility that you have in a foreign country?” I had none to give up, sadly, but very much enjoyed this question. Inheriting a particular position is un-American, after all. But while the inheritance of titles or positions remains forbidden, the persistence of class status across generations in the United States is very strong. Too strong, in fact, for a society that prides itself on social mobility.


(emphasis mine). I mean, c'mon, this isn't very insightful.

How is your idea, i. e. „Poor people should work harder“, more insightful than this quote, which points out the (rather uncontroversial) fact that being able to send your kids to the right prep school is a significant, and unearned, factor in success?

Where did I write anything about the poor needing to work harder?

„the top 20% possess superior values, habits, and cultural systems for social success“

If those „values and habits“ are supposed to be „be white and have a trust fund“, I may have misunderstood you.

I’ve gotta hand it to you, you truly excel at creatively reading whatever you’d like to see in a body of text. Bravo

And the other 80% don't possess those things because...?

Simplistically, I suspect it is because they lack sufficient time.

The sheer quantity of information and habits children must process to climb up the rungs of success in the developed world is quite large. I don't mean just academics, but also soft-skills areas like networking, leadership, interpersonal communications, etc. More interestingly, the sheer amount of information to evaluate and reject is also quite large.

Read any Ask Reddit thread about what is common knowledge in a particular industry but isn't well-known publicly. Much of this information is passed along in many well-to-do families, but not as much in less-well-off families. Yet all of this information is either passed off as inaccurate common knowledge (you save more money per fluid ounce buying the biggest cup of Coke you can; truth: you shouldn't drink any sugar water of any kind, in any common American quantities, full stop), or is simply not known at all (insurance company tells you to use X body shop for repairs after an accident they're paying for, but fewer working class than middle-class people know you can tell them you're choosing Y body shop instead).

It takes a massive amount of parental involvement time to convey this mountain of information and inculcate these habits of thought into children, starting at infancy with baby sign language to impress an early predilection to communicate thoughts, all the way through adulthood with assessing people's character and financial affairs. Since these are young developing minds, repetition is the mother skill you will turn to time and again, so many lessons are taught many times over, increasing the time commitment.

If you're already time-trapped trying to hold down enough work to pay for exorbitant American urban/suburban real estate, healthcare, and education (among other expense categories), then you won't have the time to convey all this information that is definitely not taught in schools in America. Of course the issue is way more complex and nuanced than just what I've touched upon, but I see tons of parents in America spending way too little time with their children.

At least partly because when the 20% try to show the 80% that they need these things, the 20% get accused of cultural imperialism for daring to suggest that their values and culture are better than others'.


I was probably born in the top 20%. The culture I inherited was "learn in school, go to college, learn to do something that pays, get a job that pays well, don't waste your money". I definitely wasn't born rich, I haven't inherited at all (yet), and I don't hoard with an iron fist.

But thanks for smearing all 20% of us with your slur. It sounds like you don't know much about the bottom of the top 20%.

You don't see the inherited wealth here? The whole infrastructure you've described in your culture was built by previous wealth...

> learn in school

Easier in a wealthy school. May be impossible or extraordinarily difficult in a low income school.

> go to college

Easier if you come from a wealthy background. You may have legacy, or financial means to apply to more schools, or ability to take more test prep, etc.

> Learn to do something that pays

Are wealthy kids more likely to have mentors or connections in their network due to their parents? Are their parents more likely to understand which careers pay well?

> don't waste your money

Invest wisely? Someone taught me how to manage money beyond my immediate expenses, and compound interest works, and how different investments work, and what a mortgage rate was, and how I could evaluate a bank. Those are all skills that allow you to turn your money into more money more efficiently, and they are all skills typically associate with upper class folks.

> But thanks for smearing all 20% of us with your slur. It sounds like you don't know much about the bottom of the top 20%.

I am currently a member of the top 20%. I have also lived in the bottom 20% for years. At no point did I feel the parent comment was smearing anyone.

I see the inherited wealth of opportunity and culture. I don't see the "be born rich and hoard your wealth with an iron fist". I'm not trying to keep the children of factory workers from valuing college, or trying to make it impossible for them to go. I'm trying to encourage them to go, and to choose majors that will let them get decent jobs. The wealth that you're talking about, I'm trying to give away.

You're talking about telling people to "go to college" when food security is a daily problem they have to deal with, never mind affording SAT/ACT test prep/exam fees, and I'm not going to even bother with AP/SAT Subject Tests, probably things you took part in. And some of these people do go to college, but I very much doubt that the subset of colleges they applied to had much overlap with yours.

I was born in the bottom 20% and rose to around the top 20%. In order to do so, I had to sacrifice my personal health and risk financial ruin multiple times. I'm likely to need a full set of dentures by the time I'm 35-40ish.

Would I wish that upon anyone? Absolutely not. Which is why I believe in fixing things by removing the huge wealth disparity and actually providing a proper safety net for people. The culture I inherited required me to make many sacrifices which I'm sure other, far smarter people have made. The difference is that I was lucky enough to not be killed by them.

Nevertheless, there's no reason why the 20-40%, people that show up to work, shouldn't be able to live happy, comfortable lives given the state of technological development. Zoning and other regulations are the main reason why some of them don't. It's a shame the article spends so much energy talking about taxation, when taxing the wealthy doesn't make average people any better off.

Sure. I don't have any issue with discussing how to raise up the bottom 80%. This article just isn't very good.

That's a hot take. Let's break some things down

>> the top 20% possess superior values, habits, and cultural systems for social success and upward mobility

Wut? The top 20% possess a disproportionate amount of the real wealth. This isn't a value or habit, it's just the money itself. You don't need upward mobility when you're already at the top. You know what they say, the easiest way to make a million dollars is to start with 2 million dollars...

>>make choices to gear themselves and their children towards development of important skills to thrive in the modern workplace.

Or, they then use that disproportionate level of wealth to skew the system towards benefiting them. If you're a CEO, you can create a culture that favors people like you (because hey, you're a CEO, and "logically" you should want people that resemble you since you're so successful) which creates a bias towards certain people and therefor against others. If you have huge sums of money you can afford to hire the best accountants that allow you to avoid paying as much in taxes (because the tax code was lobbied for by previous generations of extremely wealthy people). Oh, and you already have a built in network of connections to allow open (or just fully remove) doors blocking your way towards success.

Getting rich is extremely hard. Staying rich, much less so. The point of this article however seemed to be that if you agree that there is a problem with the distribution of wealth (spoiler: pretty much every poll in recent years has shown this is overwhelmingly true on both sides of the political spectrum) then figuring out people who may be responsible for this would be a good way to solve it.

Also, "herd morality" is just "morality" or "culture". There's no such thing as objective morality that I've encountered. At best you'll just find common cultural agreements.

60% of US wealth are inherited. But I guess laws and taxes around that vaguely fall under „cultural systems“, so you’re technically right.


This one [0] says "Most of these studies have found inherited wealth to be in the range of 15% to 31% of total household wealth (Menchick and David, 1983; Modigliani, 1988; Hurd and Mundaca, 1989; Gale and Scholz, 1994; Juster and Laitner, 1996)".

[0]: https://www.nber.org/papers/w11767.pdf

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