That was then--this is now.
After informing us that The Welfares (and we all know who they are) will violently take the streets if bankers are forced to have smaller bonuses, McMoron McArdle doubles down on the offensiveness. Her distaste for those below her on the social and economic ladder couldn't be more obvious, but in her world ass-kissing the rich is the new black, and McSycophant is nothing if not stylish.
SYCOPHANT, n. One who approaches Greatness on his belly so that he
may not be commanded to turn and be kicked. He is sometimes an editor.
As the lean leech, its victim found, is pleased
To fix itself upon a part diseased
Till, its black hide distended with bad blood,
It drops to die of surfeit in the mud,
So the base sycophant with joy descries
His neighbor's weak spot and his mouth applies,
Gorges and prospers like the leech, although,
Unlike that reptile, he will not let go.
Gelasma, if it paid you to devote
Your talent to the service of a goat,
Showing by forceful logic that its beard
Is more than Aaron's fit to be revered;
If to the task of honoring its smell
Profit had prompted you, and love as well,
The world would benefit at last by you
And wealthy malefactors weep anew --
Your favor for a moment's space denied
And to the nobler object turned aside.
Is't not enough that thrifty millionaires
Who loot in freight and spoliate in fares,
Or, cursed with consciences that bid them fly
To safer villainies of darker dye,
Forswearing robbery and fain, instead,
To steal (they call it "cornering") our bread
May see you groveling their boots to lick
And begging for the favor of a kick?
Still must you follow to the bitter end
Your sycophantic disposition's trend,
And in your eagerness to please the rich
Hunt hungry sinners to their final ditch?
In Morgan's praise you smite the sounding wire,
And sing hosannas to great Havemeyher!
What's Satan done that him you should eschew?
He too is reeking rich -- deducting _you_.
Let's look at this again: :"Still must you follow to the bitter end Your sycophantic disposition's trend,
And in your eagerness to please the rich Hunt hungry sinners to their final ditch?" It seems that for every Golden Age of robber barons we must endure their boot-lickers telling us to bow before the rich and serve them.
I've said before that I don't care about income inequality per se, and that focusing on it seems more like institutionalized envy than sound policy. I care about the absolute condition of the poor--do they have the basics of a decent life? And I care about whether income inequality itself produces some sort of structural advantage in the political system. (I'm skeptical).What possible advantage could one have by being very very rich while everyone else is poor? I just can't think of a single one. If a few people have almost all the money, and therefore almost all the power, and all the access to all the advantages money buys, how could that possibly hurt the poor? Anyone who thinks that having the nation's wealth concentrated in a few hands is unhealthy for the economy is just, well, jealous of the super-smart, super-hard-working, super-wonderful rich, who deserve everything they get!
Frederick: I thought we liked stripes this year.
Cruella De Vil: What kind of sycophant are you?
Frederick: Uh... what kind of sycophant would you like me to be?
On the other hand, income mobility is a very important issue. Regardless of how far the top is from the bottom, children born in America should have an equal chance to move from the latter to the former. This is especially important given that so many of the highest-paid jobs are also the most pleasant.This is how this woman thinks. There it is, her weltanschauung and raison d'etre and all those other cool foreign words, spread out for the world to see in all is sickening glory. The only goal in life is to claw your way to the top, it's either you or me, and let's face it--just between us upper middle class Atlantic readers--it's going to be me on top, and not them.
Many people apparently agree with me: the issue of income mobility has become more prominent in policy debates over the last few years. And yet I submit that this agreement is entirely theoretical. How many of the people reading this blog would actually tolerate a one-in-five chance that their children would end up poor?
Because that's what income mobility actually means. It doesn't just mean giving a lift to the folks at the bottom--superior health care, better K-12 education. Everyone in the country cannot be above average. For the poor to have a better shot at ending up in the top quintiles, the folks in the top few quintiles have to run the risk of ending up in the lowest.
"But if you say, you can still pass the violations over, then I ask, hath your house been burnt? Hath your property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or a child by their hands, and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor? If you have not, then you are not a judge of those who have. But if you have, and can still shake hands with the murderers, then you are unworthy of the name of husband, father, friend, or lover, and whatever may be your rank or title in life, you have the heart of a coward and the spirit of a sycophant." ~ Thomas Paine
Who among the parents fighting so hard to get their kids into a good school is going to volunteer to have their kid give up the slot in the upper middle class? People are willing to accept a certain amount of slippage, but only as long as it comes with added job security (government) or special fulfillment (the ministry, the arts)--and even in the latter cases, Mom and Dad will often be strenuously arguing against following your calling. But how many doctors and lawyers would simply glumly accept it if you told them that sorry, junior's going to be an intermittently employed long-haul trucker, and your darling daughter is going to work the supermarket checkout, because all the more lucrative and interesting slots went to smarter and more talented people?
I thought we lived in a meritocracy? God knows McArdle has spouted those words often enough. Now we are told that the upper middle class must keep out the smarter and more talented members of the lower class to preserve their own privilege, which just happens to be McArdle's main goal in life. Which also makes her a conservative, not libertarian, but McArdle does not mind elbowing out real libertarians if it gains her an advantage. For we live in some zero-sum game in which every time someone else makes good, McArdle is deprived of some of her birthright.
To a first approximation, none. Oh, of course, middle class families do have those spectacular screw-ups who end up stuck in dead-end jobs, and they don't expel them or anything. But they would not cooperate with any system that made such a result fairly likely--and that is what we're actually talking about, when we're talking about rising income mobility. Someone in society is going to end up doing crappy jobs, because trash needs to be hauled and Alzheimer's patients need to have their diapers changed. The primary job of a middle class parent is to ensure that their children are not those people.
To a well deserving person God will show favor. To an ill deserving person He will simply be just.
One of the reasons this is so hard is that so many of the problems poor people deal with are created by living near other poor people. Most poor people are not criminals, but most criminals are poor people, because crime actually doesn't pay (very well).
This is what happens when you don't prosecute Wall Street thugs and thieves: Megan McArdle gets to yammer in the Atlantic about how criminals are poor people who caught criminality from their degenerate neighbors. Crime paid very, very well for bankers, but this is ass-kissing, not journalism.
Most poor people take out their trash, maintain their homes, and stay off drugs--but the kind of people who don't do those things are disproportionately likely to end up in poverty. Which is to say, in your neighborhood, if you are poor--shooting at each other and hitting bystanders, breeding vermin that migrate into your living space, pilfering your stuff to support their drug habit.McArdle ignores the cocaine-fueled upper class like Larry Kudlow and his ilk, as well as her own pot-smoking friends and relations. They aren't drug addicts, they are---uh---fighting for economic and civil freedom! That's it!
Someone has to live near those people; whatever your expectations for antipoverty policy, it surely does not include the end of drug addiction and slovenly habits. But should it be your kid? Would you want them to have a one-in-five chance of living in those conditions? (Or the different, but not necessarily less miserable, conditions of rural poverty?) Of course not. You'd do anything you had to in order to keep that from happening.
And so middle class parents do. They pay lip service to mobility, but they work damn hard to make sure that their kids don't get exposed to a peer group that might normalize dropping out and working low-wage, dead end jobs, or going on welfare.
No matter how deeply ideologically committed you are to public education and income mobility, you will not leave your kid in a high-poverty school where gangs are valorized and college is not--or even in a working class school that will close off the chances for admission to Harvard. You'll agitate against zoning that would bring poor people in (though of course, not because of the poor people, it's just that, you know, the character of the town is quiet single family houses and the infrastructure won't support multi-family plus we don't really have the social services here and they'd be much better off in Camden, actually.) With other like-minded parents, you'll take over the school and reshape its priorities to match those of the upper-middle class. Or you'll move to a different school system, naturally talking about the enrichment programs rather than the more affluent, education-focused peer group you're buying for your kids.
The one thing you will not say--unless you are isolated in a rural area with exactly one school and no critical mass of similar parents--is, "Oh, well, I guess the best we can hope for is a third-tier state school." It is no accident that the middle class bits of the New York City school system have managed to hijack the best resources for themselves, in the process building a pretty good public school system which exists cheek-by-jowl with a very lousy one.Income mobility is one of the pillars of the American dream, one of the basic precepts of American Exceptionalism. And McArdle simply denies it. She is upper middle class, her audience is upper middle class, therefore income inequality is just fine and income mobility is a bad thing that might rob them of something, somewhere, somehow. This paean to selfishness, this laudatory lavatory paper, this I-got-mine-fuck-you-Jack--it contradicts everything we are supposed to hold dear. It's not that McArdle is selfish and greedy and miserly. It's that she feels perfectly at ease admitting it. She does not fear any kind of retribution whatsoever, socially or professionally. No priest is going to denounce her--she has no religion but money. No friends will shun her--they are as eager for wealth and power as she. And of course the more servile she becomes, the richer she becomes. It's win-win, if you are a lackey with no pride, morality or shame.
Remember, this is the meritocratic system we're talking about. This is the system that was supposed to break the spine of the old aristocracy of wealth and pull--and did, only to replace it with one that seems to be even more ruthlessly effective at shielding their children from competition.
And that's the optimistic case--the case that assumes that there is virtually no parental transmission of real economic virtues, through genetics, intensive nurturing, or through the learned behaviors and peer effects that conservatives bundle up as "culture". Obviously, as you introduce those sorts of elements into the model, for which the sorts of interventions one can imagine run from horribly difficult to morally monstrous, the picture gets rather bleaker.
It will be very hard, I believe, to state in what respect the king has profited by that faction which presumptuously choose to call themselves his friends.
If particular men had grown into an attachment, by the distinguished honour of the society of their sovereign; and, by being the partakers of his amusements, came sometimes to prefer the gratification of his personal inclinations to the support of his high character, the thing would be very natural, and it would be excusable enough. But the pleasant part of the story is, that these king's friends have no more ground for usurping such a title, than a resident freeholder in Cumberland or in Cornwall. They are only known to their sovereign bv kissing his hand, for the offices, pensions, and grants, into which they have deceived his benignitv. May no storm ever come, which will put the firmness of their attachment to the proof; and which, in the midst of confusions. and terrours, and sufferings, may demonstrate the eternal difference between a true and severe friend to the monarchy, and a slippery sycophant to the court! Quantum infido scarrtB distabit amicus. --Edmund Burke
We should be talking about income mobility--it's probably the most important moral challenge facing our society. But I very much doubt that we'll end up doing much more than talk.
Not as long as McArdle has anything to say about it. The funny thing, however--and there is always a funny thing, thank God--is that nobody despises sycophants more than the rich and powerful.
"I, uh... I want to thank you all for coming here tonight and drinking all of my booze." [the guests laugh] "No, really. uh..." "To all of you, uh, to all of you phonies, all of you two-faced friends, you sycophantic suck-ups who smile through your teeth at me, please... leave me in peace. Please... go. Stop smiling. It's not a joke. Please leave. The party's over. Get out."-Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins