For some time now, Robert Reich writes, the United States has been devolving into a We and Them Society -- as in, Why should we pay for them? He sites several examples:
The middle-class and wealthy citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, for example, are trying to secede from the school district they now share with poorer residents of town, and set up their own district funded by property taxes from their higher-valued homes.
Similar efforts are underway in Memphis, Atlanta, and Dallas. Over the past two years, two wealthy suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, have left the countywide school system in order to set up their own.
One reason for the divide is -- and has always been -- race. But in the three decades following World War II, when incomes were rising for everyone, there was a notion that we are all in this together. As income inequality has increased, so has the notion that it is every man and woman for him or her self.
Now Americans can choose whether or not they wish to see their neighbours:
Being rich in today’s America means not having to come across anyone who isn’t. Exclusive prep schools, elite colleges, private jets, gated communities, tony resorts, symphony halls and opera houses, and vacation homes in the Hamptons and other exclusive vacation sites all insulate them from the rabble.
America’s wealthy increasingly inhabit a different country from the one “they” inhabit, and America’s less fortunate seem as foreign as do the needy inhabitants of another country.
In Third World countries, the wealthy build high walls, topped with shards of glass, to make sure that "they" can't get in. Is this what America has become -- a nation where half of the country doesn't even see the other half?
This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.