First of all, there is no scientific evidence that standing next to a marshmallow cannon will retard the onset of puberty, although we have seen strong correlation in the opposite direction. Second, no matter what Barack Obama has been doing the last three years—and keep in mind that he has personally ordered the assassinations of several people—he can still manage that look of innocent wonder. I am a sucker for POTUS. Probably he is not more than a hair’s breadth away from the venal plutocrats he spends his day opposing; possibly, he is one such plutocrat himself. But he feels more relatable to me than Bush, and less likely to try to get my mom drunk than Clinton, and much less like a heartless symbol of unrelenting money power than Reagan. Remember how bad things were for poor people under Reagan? That was thirty years ago, and they’re much worse now. It’s called a class war, and the marshmallow cannons are in trouble.
Fact: the President is not a black man learning about a white kid’s marshmallow cannon; he is now officially a rich man learning about a poor child. According to the Times, the gap in standardized test scores between rich students and poor has widened by 40% since the 1960s, making it wider now than the gap between white and black. So the good news is that racism is over. The bad news is that the gap in college completion—still the single best predictor of future income—has grown by 50% since the late eighties. So we are talking about a generationally compound problem. We send more rich kids and fewer poor kids to college now, and the kids who go to college have kids who are rich.
Not that we’re creating a permanent underclass. This is America, where we have a dream, and the American dream holds that anyone who works hard can amass as much wealth and property as he wants to. We’re pretty sure that’s how the dream went, at least. America has been taking a lot of Ambien lately, on account of the stress, so our dream journal has kind of trailed off at page three. But dammit, we’re still the most equal country in the world, even if our Gini Index puts us 22nd out of 23 countries, ahead of Singapore. Remember the Gini Index? The CIA considers it a strong predictor of social unrest, as do the authors of several books reviewed in this week’s New York R of Bs. But I’m sure the same government whose policies have vastly increased the gap between rich and poor and who also funds and operates the CIA has not done any thinking about how to quell widespread dissatisfaction with social stratification.
You’re not necessarily in trouble when you find out someone is cheating you. But you know you’re in trouble when they start doing it openly. According to an elaborate Washington Post investigation:
Thirty-three members of Congress have directed more than $300 million in earmarks and other spending provisions to dozens of public projects that are next to or within about two miles of the lawmakers’ own property…Under the ethics rules Congress has written for itself, this is both legal and undisclosed.
One such congressman is Senator Richard Shelby, seen here criticizing a regulation requiring Western Union to disclose wire transfer fees on the grounds that it would cost Americans money. I’m not saying that being evil gradually gives you fish mouth, but neither Shelby nor Dick Cheney is medically able to play the kazoo.
It is true that many evil people get rich. It is not true that being rich makes you evil; many children of wealthy parents grow up to be perfectly ordinary adults with no particular morality either way. Take Willard Mittens “Mitt” Romney,* the governor’s son who has succeeded in every endeavor, Michael Tomasky notes, except two. One is politics. The other is relating to the norms. As one biographer notes, “His inability to empathize with common folk had long been his hoary hoodoo. His father had warned him about it.” When your dad is yelling down the dinner table at the governor’s mansion that you should not lose touch with ordinary people, you should listen. Or you can strap your dog to the roof of your car and ride around the country making $10,000 gentleman’s bets. Whatever—you’re still making fifty grand a day.
It’s not like the dog thing is what turned people against Romney anyway. Republican voters worry that Romney was mean to his dog the way your fish worries that your cat is irresponsible; mostly, he’s just frantically searching for a way out of the bowl. That analogy kind of sucks, particularly in comparison to this brilliant one from The Onion:
GOP Introduces New “Mystery Candidate” With Paper Bag Over Head
Statistically, Mystery Candidate is closer to your income than all the other ones.