Two 21-year-old college students sit down in a coffee shop to study for an upcoming test. Behind the counter, a barista whips up their double-shot lattes. In the back kitchen, another young adult washes the dishes and empties the trash.
These four young adults have a lot in common. They are the same age and race, each has two parents, and all grew up in the same metropolitan area. They were all strong students in their respective high schools. But as they enter their third decade, their work futures and life trajectories are radically different—and largely determined at this point.
Turn on cable news at most times of the day, and you can find a "debate" in which a program's host throws questions to two guests, one a conservative and one a liberal, invited on for their ability to slog their way through five soul-deadening minutes of motive-questioning and oft-repeated talking points. If you've ever watched one of these and said to yourself, "Maybe they should just lose the host and have these two yell at each other directly. And extend it to a whole half-hour!", then there might be a job waiting for you at CNN.
We've heard a lot about jobs in this presidential election cycle. The idea being, I suppose, that once people have a job, regardless of the wages or the hours, they can bootstrap their way to the top. Probably for similar reasons, we don't hear much about poverty. So long as there are jobs around, political rhetoric seems to say, being poor is a choice. While both campaigns will spend many many millions on ads telling you about jobs, I doubt we'll hear much about economic mobility in America or pathways to escaping poverty.
As has been shown time and time again, African American families have been the biggest losers in the current economy. Black unemployment, for example, has been in the 16 percent range for more than two years, with dim prospects for improvement. The poor economic position of African Americans is most evidence with regards to overall wealth – as this new chart from the Economic Policy Institute shows, black wealth has seen a precipitous decline since 2007, to a 20-year low.
Andrew Sullivan has done it again. In a post about rampant income inequality -- which, to be fair, he sees as a problem -- Sullivan equates "wealth" with "success." I'll let E.D. Kainexplain what's wrong with this equivalence: