Racism Recedes: Classism Grows

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It is no longer publicly acceptable to be racist. Just ask Senator Allen who lost his election bid for a racist remark. As racism recedes from public acts, another deeply entrenched discrimination of very long standing is rising to the fore for attack, belittlement, and reform. Classism, or discrimination based on economic class, is becoming the new politically incorrect behavior to overcome.

From medical care, to education, to housing, to job opportunities, those of the wealthy class get better treatment and favor than others of less affluence. Harvard, one of the costliest universities, has tuition assistance for the non-wealthy. But, the average income of families receiving tuition assistance for Harvard is over $100,000 per year.

The wealthy gated communities in which the better off reside, no longer exclude residents on the basis of race. But, they discriminate intensely on the basis of financial status, which mirrors racist selectivity in some areas of the country, but, race is not the operative selective criteria. No ethnic family would be denied access to a wealthy gated community if they have the resources to outbid others for the residence. (Though they may find the estate has already been sold, in Alabama or Mississippi, for example.)

As many as 96,000 people die in American hospitals each year as a direct result of medical malpractice. Many times that number receive the wrong procedure, medication, or diagnosis resulting in a worsening of their malady or, the creation of a new one they didn't walk in with. There are many factors involved in why this occurs. But, chief among them is the hours medical practitioners put in. Some residents routinely put in 36 hours at a time. That last 12 hours results in their working on patients with the same attention and judgment skills as a .10 % blood alcohol content. They aren't permitted to operate a vehicle in that state, but, they are permitted to operate on a patient in that state.

Wealthy clients go to wealthy practitioners who don't need to work 24 or 36 hour shifts. Wealthy clients also have the resources to sue for malpractice and so, are treated with greater care and concern on average. Public Citizen has a lot of information on this health care class issue, just type health care in their search box.)

Wealthy persons have greater access to government. Whether that wealth is derived from union memberships, or personal entrepreneurial luck and acumen, folks of the upper classes have access to Congresspersons and the White House which those in lesser classes do not. Therefore, as we have seen, when it comes to issues like tax policy, the wealthy have been able to use their affluent influence to shape tax policy which favors them far more on a per capita basis in their class, than those of lesser affluence.

Many Republicans and Democrats tout that equal opportunity is all that should be afforded. What people do with that opportunity is up to them. But, this is the same as saying that putting Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe and a wheel chair bound individual on the same starting line for a 100 yard dash will give both contestants and equal opportunity to win. It doesn't.

Many poor work just as hard, and just as long hours as the wealthy. This is the fact that stands in the way of any easy solution to wealth distribution in America. A woman working as assistant manager at Wal-Mart makes approximately $24,000 per year, but her work day is not over when she leaves Wal-Mart. She must then come home, make dinner, tend the kids, supervise clean up, do the laundry, balance the check book, pay the bills, schedule appointments for the kid's doctors, after school events, and weekend sleepovers, before she lies down to try to get 6 to 7 hours sleep before rising to get the kids off to school. She works just as hard and as many hours as a $5 mil. a year stock broker.

Is it fair and just that she should have to do without health insurance, tutors for her kids when needed, access to a reliable car for transportation, a home of her own, and preventive medical checkups even though she works a full time job? This is the question that underlies the growing debate over class discrimination in America. And it is not a debate that is going away. More research supports debated intuitions of the past, that the poor suffer far more in terms of longevity, health condition, class rise for their children, and in limited opportunities than those born into the upper middle or higher classes.

As this research builds, and becomes more public, the issue of class discrimination will also build to make or break politics and policies in coming years. Classism is replacing racism as the new social issue of the 21st century. And it is not a coincidence that Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security and pension plan bankruptcy are rising as key issues at the very same time. For they constituted the great leveler in wealth distribution in the 20th century, but, are under increasing pressures to be dissolved if the political will to reform and salvage them does not occur.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on December 26, 2006 9:04 AM.

Of Peace and Bounty was the previous entry in this blog.

Ford: Healer or Corrupter? is the next entry in this blog.

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