Is it more similar to the top 1 percent or the working class?
Have upper-middle-class Americans been winners in the modern economy — or victims? That question has been the subject of a debate recently among economists, writers and others.
On one side are people who argue that the bourgeois professional class — essentially, households with incomes in the low-to-mid six figures but without major wealth — is not so different from the middle class and poor. All of these groups are grappling with slow-growing incomes, high medical costs, student debt and so on.
The only real winners in today’s economy are at the very top, according to this side of the debate. When Bernie Sanders talks about “the greed of billionaires” or Thomas Piketty writes about capital accumulation, they are making a version of this case.
.. “What do the upper middle class care most about in my district? They want a pluralistic America that is engaged with the world and embraces technology and future industries. What they don’t want is a backlash to diversity, a backlash to globalization, a backlash to technology.”
The upper middle class doesn’t deserve the blame for our economic problems. But it doesn’t deserve much government help, either.
This is a ringing indictment of our global economic system, which is failing the vast majority of humanity. Our world is richer than ever before, but virtually all of it is being captured by a small elite.
The legacy system is affirmative action for the privileged.
We progressives hail opportunity, egalitarianism and diversity. Yet here’s our dirty little secret: Some of our most liberal bastions in America rely on a system of inherited privilege that benefits rich whites at the expense of almost everyone else.
I’m talking about “legacy preferences” that elite universities give to children of graduates. These universities constitute some of the world’s greatest public goods, but they rig admissions to favor applicants who already have had every privilege in life.
.. Most of the best universities in America systematically discriminate in favor of affluent, privileged alumni children. If that isn’t enough to get your kids accepted, donate $5 million to the university, and they’ll get a second look.
.. Reeves noted the irony that in Europe and most of the rest of the world, there is no such explicit system of legacy preferences, yet in supposedly egalitarian America it is formal and systematic.
.. Isn’t it a bit hypocritical that institutions so associated with liberalism should embrace a hereditary aristocratic structure? Ah, never underestimate the power of self-interest to shape people’s views. As Reeves put it dryly: “American liberalism tends to diminish as the issues get closer to home.”
.. having a parent graduate increased the chance of admission at 30 top colleges by 45 percentage points. For example, a candidate who otherwise had a 20 percent shot became a 65 percent prospect with a parent who had graduated from that school.
.. Earlier, a 2004 Princeton study estimated that legacy at top schools was worth an additional 160 points on an SAT, out of 1600 points.
Legacy preferences apparently were introduced in America in the early 1900s as a way to keep out Jewish students. To their credit, some American universities, including M.I.T. — not to mention Oxford and Cambridge in Britain — don’t give a legacy preference.
The top universities say that legacy preferences help create a multigenerational community of alumni, and that’s a legitimate argument. They also note that rewarding donors helps encourage donations that can be used to finance scholarships for needy kids.
Yet on balance, I’m troubled that some of America’s greatest institutions grant a transformative opportunity disproportionately to kids already steeped in advantage, from violin lessons to chess tournaments to SAT coaching. On top of that, letting wealthy families pay for extra consideration feels, to use a technical term, yucky.
Liberals object to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowing tycoons to buy political influence, so why allow tycoons to buy influence in college admissions?
Kavanaugh has reported credit card debts that exceeded $15,000 for six of his 12 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. At the end of 2016, those debts ranged between $45,000 to $150,000 and were spread among three credit cards, before being paid off sometime last year.
There was never a hint of anything irresponsible about anything that he did,” said Bob Bittman, a Washington lawyer who worked with Kavanaugh in the Kenneth W. Starr-led independent counsel’s office. “But apparently he was in debt. I believe it was temporary or there was a plan to get out of it, or he was going to be repaid by friends. He’s not the type of guy who does things to keep up with the Joneses.”
.. The same year he accumulated the highest debts of his judicial tenure, Kavanaugh also joined the Chevy Chase Club — an elite country club that counts Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. among its members and, as of 2017, required a $92,000 initiation fee and annual dues of more than $9,000.
“It’s a place where your children can be on the swim team, learn to play tennis and play in an ice hockey league. It’s a family-focused environment,” said Helgi Walker, a Washington lawyer and friend of Kavanaugh’s who also belongs to the club.
.. “Certainly living in the D.C. area there is a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality. People who you may think are quite wealthy based on their spending or how they carry themselves are not actually that wealthy. And it all comes down to, are you continually saving?”
.. Several friends of Kavanaugh described him as frugal.
.. At the same time, as Kavanaugh established his legal and family reputation, he went about adopting the trappings of a 1-percenter — and accumulating large amounts of debt in the process.
.. The same year he became a judge, Kavanaugh and his wife purchased a $1.2 million home in the Village of Chevy Chase Section 5
.. Despite living in a top public school district, Kavanaugh views the price tag of a Catholic education as a necessary expense, those close to the family said. He has publicly said that his Catholic school upbringing played a significant role in shaping his values.