Class of 2012

Prospect Magazine

Class of 2012

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America’s election campaign has opened up a new conversation about inequality

The haves—and the have yachts: only 8 per cent of American men born into poverty make it into the top 20 per cent income bracket

In America, agonising over race is a national pastime. Gender gets a good airing as well. Class, however, is a touchy subject. We cling to the cherished myth of the meritocracy which insists that class does not matter, that anyone can go from a log cabin to the White House. Talk of class sounds unpatriotic, Marxist, European. During a presidential debate earlier this year, Mitt Romney tried to make a point about the middle class, only to be scolded by Rick Santorum: “There are no classes in America,” Santorum said. To use such terminology is “to buy into the class warfare arguments of Barack Obama.”

Yet class does exist in America. And now, when the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the top 1 per cent

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Diane Roberts is a professor of English at Florida State University and a commentator for National Public Radio. 

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