Lately inequality has re-entered the national conversation. Occupy Wall Street gave the issue visibility, while the Congressional Budget Office supplied hard data on the widening income gap. And the myth of a classless society has been exposed: Among rich countries, America stands out as the place where economic and social status is most likely to be inherited.
So you knew what was going to happen next. Suddenly, conservatives are telling us that itís not really about money; itís about morals. Never mind wage stagnation and all that, the real problem is the collapse of working-class family values, which is somehow the fault of liberals.
But is it really all about morals? No, itís mainly about money.
To be fair, the new book at the heart of the conservative pushback, Charles Murrayís ďComing Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,Ē does highlight some striking trends. Among white Americans with a high school education or less, marriage rates and male labor force participation are down, while births out of wedlock are up. Clearly, white working-class society has changed in ways that donít sound good.
But the first question one should ask is: Are things really that bad on the values front?