Monday, October 21, 2002

in the Magazine for the sunday new york times

October 20, 2002
For Richer

. The Disappearing Middle
When I was a teenager growing up on Long Island, one of my favorite excursions was a trip to see the great Gilded Age mansions of the North Shore. Those mansions weren't just pieces of architectural history. They were monuments to a bygone social era, one in which the rich could afford the armies of servants needed to maintain a house the size of a European palace. By the time I saw them, of course, that era was long past. Almost none of the Long Island mansions were still private residences. Those that hadn't been turned into museums were occupied by nursing homes or private schools.

For the America I grew up in -- the America of the 1950's and 1960's -- was a middle-class society, both in reality and in feel. The vast income and wealth inequalities of the Gilded Age had disappeared. Yes, of course, there was the poverty of the underclass -- but the conventional wisdom of the time viewed that as a social rather than an economic problem. Yes, of course, some wealthy businessmen and heirs to large fortunes lived far better than the average American. But they weren't rich the way the robber barons who built the mansions had been rich, and there weren't that many of them. The days when plutocrats were a force to be reckoned with in American society, economically or politically, seemed long past.

Daily experience confirmed the sense of a fairly equal society. The economic disparities you were conscious of were quite muted. Highly educated professionals -- middle managers, college teachers, even lawyers -- often claimed that they earned less than unionized blue-collar workers. Those considered very well off lived in split-levels, had a housecleaner come in once a week and took summer vacations in Europe. But they sent their kids to public schools and drove themselves to work, just like everyone else.

But that was long ago. The middle-class America of my youth was another country.

We are now living in a new Gilded Age, as extravagant as the original. Mansions have made a comeback. Back in 1999 this magazine profiled Thierry Despont, the ''eminence of excess,'' an architect who specializes in designing houses for the superrich. His creations typically range from 20,000 to 60,000 square feet; houses at the upper end of his range are not much smaller than the White House. Needless to say, the armies of servants are back, too. So are the yachts. Still, even J.P. Morgan didn't have a Gulfstream.

As the story about Despont suggests, it's not fair to say that the fact of widening inequality in America has gone unreported. Yet glimpses of the lifestyles of the rich and tasteless don't necessarily add up in people's minds to a clear picture of the tectonic shifts that have taken place in the distribution of income and wealth in this country. My sense is that few people are aware of just how much the gap between the very rich and the rest has widened over a relatively short period of time. In fact, even bringing up the subject exposes you to charges of ''class warfare,'' the ''politics of envy'' and so on. And very few people indeed are willing to talk about the profound effects -- economic, social and political -- of that widening gap.

the model i have for this!

in milk that is homoginized, the cream does not rise to the top. in society, the same IF there is a "homoginizing agent"!
that agent, i feel, is...starting with religion, and going on down to the Virtues...all of the "glue" that holds life to be meaningfull!
the boy scout Jesus!
IF there is no agent, in the milk, the cream will immediately all rise to the top as $$$ and status and power become ALL!
without this "agent" why indeed cannot a boy be a drug runner for $100 to $33 per day compared to fast food hell at $6.00 an hour?!
everything points to the rightness of drug-running and Dealing if there is no "homoginizing agent"
in our society.

no wonder all our kids are full of rage and depressions! tune in to your radio and Find Out, adults!

in a few years we all could end up living like most of the third world...1% of the people own it all and the rest of us work dawn to dusk seven days a week, and *just* survive!

yes it means christmas carols in the schools and spankings and a whole whole lot of other stuff that infers that
there is disipline and structure....

how can a school parent bitch about the mess of morals and education when that parent is mightedly taking out from the tomato vines each and every climbing that now the tomatos just lie on the ground and rot!
they take out xmas carols and anything else that might just offend someone so that there is not a single Value left.
ALL the kids oughta go out and Deal drugs! *that* will help them get lots of $$$!