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Writing in the margins: The American 'Nobility'


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Charles Hertenstein IV
guest columnist
By Charles Hertenstein IV
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 10, 2005
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The issue of social division in our country has always been a topic of intense discussion and debate among pundits, legislators and activists alike. Many are pointing to the government's reaction after Hurricane Katrina to illustrate how deep social divisions really go.

Some say the government's slow response for aid showed a succinct racial bias that is still alive and well in the U.S. Others blame partisan differences. Still others believed it was the root cause of a much bigger picture.

The latter group believes that this is actually a systemic problem whose roots lie in our society's economic class differences. The prevailing wisdom by those in media and the halls of economic departments across the country only passively refer to the major class differences, whose problems have been scarcely reported apart from the dramatic spectacle of the Bush administration's response to Katrina.

Even the way the country presents unemployment statistics shows a strong bias to the actual number of individuals unemployed. Welfare is undercut at every opportunity. The education for America's poor is routed. There is little talk of providing free health care for every American.

Bandages of social programs are touted and enacted with no availed success for America's bottom half. Yet money is readily available to bail out the next bankruptcy crises suffered by an industry. Billions are scraped for national defense. Billions more find their ways into the coffers of the rich, particularly in the form of massive tax write-offs for their investments. What is this bias?

To many it is a mystery why the poor stay poor and the rich stay rich. Economists in particular like to point out that if only the poor worked hard enough, they could be well off, too. Stories of "rags to riches" inspire those assertions. But this isn't the mainstream in America.

If you were born into a poor family, you are immersed in a completely different culture. One where the schools are falling apart and the teachers make effort to subpar standards. Education is not treasured in this culture. It is one where if you are sick, you will be financially broken, assuming you could qualify for loans. You are taught that the society cares little about you.

Sometimes you react in positive ways and begin to organize and work for your betterment. Most of the times however, you'll feel lost and abandoned, possibly taking it out in less positive ways like crime and drugs. Falling into spiraling debt just to make amends with a society that values material possessions often radicalized on the streets (money, bling, sex). It is a poverty of the spirits that the poor must also overcome, not just a matter of "working harder."

Is it really surprising that the environment you are bred in produces the situations you must overcome? How can we talk about a land of opportunity when others are granted a head start in an individualist contest of entrepreneurship and competition?

Take John D. Rockefeller IV, a U.S. senator from West Virginia. His great-grandfather was once the richest man in the world. He is a nephew of a former U.S. vice president. He had the advantages of a top-notch education, excellent health care, and a culture of ambition and accomplishment. How could he fail?

Or take a more famous example: George W. Bush, the son of a former president. Out of millions of capable citizens, he is the leader of the Free World. Perhaps the bias of our society is so strong that we fail to see the obvious irony. And therein lies the problem: A lack of dissent and lack of discussion of the underlying issues hidden just beneath the surface.

Sometimes brutally and harshly exposed after spending so much time being ignored. Knowing in the back of our minds that yes, the rich are biased against the poor. It takes a hurricane in this regard to expose, what detailed social indicators already document.

Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution states, "No title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States." I think it's time we realize that Nobility doesn't need to be "granted." It just needs to be allowed. The question is, are we going to continue to allow it?


Charles Hertenstein IV is an economics sophomore. If you would like to be featured in "Writing in the margins," please contact us at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.



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