America’s Suffocating Class System

The heart of the American dream is that anyone with grit can rise. Instead, our increasingly ossified class system dictates life outcomes with depressing consistency. America is choking its future.

Proof? Start with Matthew Stewart’s compelling study in The Atlantic. It’s not simply the top .1 percent, Stewart shows, that’s monopolizing prosperity. The next 9.9 percent is perpetuating a class structure which monopolizes success.

This nouveau-aristocracy espouses meritocracy. But it’s vesting its children with a privileged access to the ingredients of well-being ― superior health care; elite education; a network of societal gatekeepers; influence over governmental decision-making; and the accumulation and preservation of wealth. Says Stewart: “We are the principal accomplices in a process that is slowly strangling the economy, destabilizing American politics, and eroding democracy.”

Granted, the top .1 percent are the overlords in a massive wealth transfer. But the next 9.9 percent own substantially more wealth than the top .1 percent and the bottom 90 percent. These are the doctors, lawyers, executives and dispensers of financial services whose median worth ― $2.4 million ― is unimaginable for those below. Unsurprisingly, they are significantly whiter than the total U.S. population.

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