I know I am not the first to point out that David Brooks is the only man in America who could fail to find a Red Lobster in exurban Pennsylvania, a territory that he mistakes for rural America, but as the Patented Son-of-a-1-percenter and a scion of poverty county, PA, I'm obliged to offer a bit of sour correction.
Then there is what you might call Red Inequality. This is the kind experienced in Scranton, Des Moines, Naperville, Macon, Fresno, and almost everywhere else. In these places, the crucial inequality is not between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent.Are there no investment offices in Scranton? No hospitals? No law offices? Small cities and towns may lack media conglomerates and sports franchises, but they do have cardiologists and attorneys and prosperous home builders. The literal top 1% of income earners in the US starts around $380K, but the top 5% starts at just over a buck-fiddy, well within the earning range of your average kuntry doctur. Anyway, Brooks reminds us that without a collegducation, most of us schmoes lack the opportunity to ascend into the upper echelons of our society's unquestionable inequality; why, with wider book learning, every mere blacksmith's son may seek to achieve his earldom before his true betters chop off his fucking head. This is easy to make fun of, but it's really one of the saddest conceits of our time. Bachelors degrees are like TVs and cell phones--even poor people have 'em!, much to the chagrin of our high-wage media moralists. The idea that giving every single soul a sheepskin will immensely enrich its earthly passage so completely misunderstands the valuation of commodities that it could only have been dreamed up by a capitalist. Oy vey--if every hillbilly in Texas were sitting on his own oil well, then no one gets rich. Universal college education can only ever recapitulate universal high school by becoming utterly worthless; if the 99% Tumblr is any indication, it's already occurred even with only, what, a quarter of the population actually receiving (I will not say earning) a 4-year degree? Next up, masters; doctorate. A lifetime of contemplative retreat in order to qualify as a candidate for an unpaid janitorial internship!
The sneering aristocratic mien is a really charming affect on a man who purports to have wandered out into countryside to commune with the Real People. They fuck, divorce, breed like rabbits, and their table manners are atrocious! And what do the evangelicals of the American university experience imagine their college educated civilization will actually look like. Is every living person to be a civil engineer or an MD? Can a society composed entirely of pharmacists prosper? Can a nation in which every man and woman is a CPA survive?