Inequality: Why poor Americans aren’t up in arms

I WON’T be modest. I am gratified to discover, via my colleague’s interesting post on inequality, that a paper I penned on the subject nearly five years ago made its way into Matt Miller’s Washington Post column last week. Mr Miller, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, asks why rising inequality has not provoked America’s least-favoured classes to agitate for a remedy. By way of an answer, he agrees with my verdict: that access to better goods among the least well-off has ensured that material inequality is not as profound as income inequality. Basically, most people can afford a decent microwave, even if some have far more bells and whistles than others.Affordable modern conveniences have taken some of the sting out of a relatively small income. This in turn has curbed the drive to seek causes of and cures for poverty’s discomfort. So the gap between rich and poor is sometimes less conspicuous, even if it is great and growing. From time to time we do feel envious of those who have more, but we don’t typically experience our relative level of income in this way. Day-to-day experience is mostly a matter of our material circumstances, and if those are decent enough, a widening gap in income, consumption or wealth is unlikely to come often to our attention. Even if the abstract fact of rising inequality does come across our radar, it may offend our …

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