Friday, September 08, 2017

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rachel Sherman writes about the steps taken by wealthy Americans to hide how much they spend to paper over income inequality:
Over lunch in a downtown restaurant, Beatrice, a New Yorker in her late 30s, told me about two decisions she and her husband were considering. They were thinking about where to buy a second home and whether their young children should go to private school. Then she made a confession: She took the price tags off her clothes so that her nanny would not see them. “I take the label off our six-dollar bread,” she said.

She did this, she explained, because she was uncomfortable with the inequality between herself and her nanny, a Latina immigrant. She had a household income of $250,000 and inherited wealth of several million dollars. Relative to the nanny, she told me, “The choices that I have are obscene. Six-dollar bread is obscene.”

An interior designer I spoke with told me his wealthy clients also hid prices, saying that expensive furniture and other items arrive at their houses “with big price tags on them” that “have to be removed, or Sharpied over, so the housekeepers and staff don’t see them.”
The ways these wealthy New Yorkers identify and avoid stigma matter not because we should feel sorry for uncomfortable rich people, but because they tell us something about how economic inequality is hidden, justified and maintained in American life.

Keeping silent about social class, a norm that goes far beyond the affluent, can make Americans feel that class doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter. And judging wealthy people on the basis of their individual behaviors — do they work hard enough, do they consume reasonably enough, do they give back enough — distracts us from other kinds of questions about the morality of vastly unequal distributions of wealth.

To hide the price tags is not to hide the privilege; the nanny is no doubt aware of the class gap whether or not she knows the price of her employer’s bread. Instead, such moves help wealthy people manage their discomfort with inequality, which in turn makes that inequality impossible to talk honestly about — or to change.
- And Chris Bryant discusses how the UK's aristocracy has retained massive amounts of wealth and power based solely on hereditary entitlements.

- Scott Courtney highlights the importance of offering voters a genuine workers' party to rein in structural inequality. And Robert Greene II writes about the need for progressive organization to be patient and aimed toward lasting policy change, not reflected only in immediate reactions to events.

- Joseph Stiglitz points out the utter lack of preparation for foreseeable natural disasters such as hurricanes as a prime example of market failure which needs to be addressed through collective action. And David Sirota discusses the role of corporate secrecy and deregulation in endangering the first responders who were willing to put their health and lives on the line without being informed of the risks they faced.

- Finally, Katherine Ellen Foley reports on new research showing that the papers used to question the reality of climate change can all be traced back to faulty assumptions, methodology or analysis.

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