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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

American society at crossroads

By Yu Xiaokui (Guangming Daily)

15:37, February 07, 2012

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

The Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread to several hundred cities is probably more than a footnote to U.S. politics in 2011. The movement's slogan, "We are the 99 percent," has made most Americans rethink the country's developing direction. The U.S. President also noted in his recent State of the Union address that an unfair economic system is endangering the country's middle class and American values.

Obama's speech showed the severe social divide and political polarization facing the United States.

Although the majority of the U.S. middle class have not participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement, they identify with the progressive demands of the "occupants," and are disappointed and angry about the increasingly unfair economic system and its root causes.

Originally, the U.S. society valuing "hard working" and "fair competition" was not sensitive to the gap between the wealthy and poor. But now, due to the income gap accumulated in past years and the unfairness in the individual development opportunity, American people's attitude toward the gap has changed.

After making researches, a scholar from the Brookings Institution Isabel Sawhill believes that, in the bad situation caused by the financial crisis, Americans do not feel any more that the United States is a country full of opportunities. In the past, most Americans believed that they had many opportunities to succeed and their children could live a better life by hard working too. But now, it seems many of them believe that they cannot narrow the gap between the wealthy and poor according to current "rules of game."

Many scholars on politics, including Jacob Hacker and Paul Pearson, pointed out that this phenomenon of unfairness also reflects the strengthening political influence from U.S. "social elites". Many super wealthy men work in the financial realm and have paid large amounts of political donations. It is a reflection of this kind of political influence that the U.S. Congress maintains low tax rates on managers of hedge funds.

Under the current system, financial benefits come to hands of a few "elites," but the risk is taken by the unprotected middle class. Meanwhile, the current system also fosters the political polarization, social distrust emotion and hostilities among different stratums and may distort the operation mode of the U.S. democratic political system and strengthen money's influence on politics and power.

Like what Barack Obama said, the U.S. society is facing two options for its future: accepting the polarization or recovering the economic equity. However, the primary task faced by him is not to fight against the system and rich people but win the presidential election.


Leave your comment16 comments

  1. Name

PD User at 2012-02-2176.96.4.*
The one thing that would create change in America"s political system would be Term Limits. Congressman and Senators routinely serve 15-20-25-35 years in office. The median wealth of these people is now at $918,000 with many being Multi-Millionaires. They cater to the rich and powerful whose money buys them access. But these are the very people who have to enact term limits. Therefore it seems that America"s political system will continue to self-destruct.
American Slave at 2012-02-1970.170.19.*
One thing i hope other countries do is not develop this stupid consumer economy we here. Try to develop a society of savers and investors, it works for Warren Buffet.
PD User at 2012-02-17110.175.8.*
These are exact words of a US citizen about America:Enough lies and deceit. Enough rigging of and stealing trillions of our taxpayer dollars. Enough invading countries for their natural resources. Enough of poisoning our food, air, soil, and water. Enough of breaking of all laws and treaties. Enough of all the rogue actions by those in charge! Enough of destroying our constitution.
PD User at 2012-02-1686.180.85.*
I agree fully. Protests should be peaceful and are meant to be persuasive. Militancy has no place in any democracy.
Sam Teng at 2012-02-16175.136.54.*
PD users 113 239 227 and 113 231 244.Please do not split hairs. Corruption and gap between rich and poor happens in many countries of different ideologies. Look at India which is the world"s largest democracy. You think they are doing better than China in both these areas?

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