The elite in America

This morning, NPR ran an interview with an Alabama fisherman who was talking about how the BP oil spill continues to wreak havoc on her livelihood.  Her accent was so thick that I had to focus really carefully  to understand what she was saying.  What's ironic is that I'm now in Alabama.  And no one around me speaks that way.  Accent is simply not a problem amongst the Alabamans I interact with.

What gives? I'm sure NPR didn't cast the fisherman for her impenetrable accent. Instead, this is just one more illustration of the two Americas.  Republican populists rail against the educated, cultured elite; Democratic populists rail against the connected, wealthy elite.  But who are these elite?

I can propose two simple tests: if your accent is bland enough that an Indian immigrant can understand you, you are the liberal elite.  And if you've never decided to forego dental work because you can't afford it, you belong to the conservative elite.  Most of the people I know and interact with on a daily basis fall in the lucky sliver of having both thin accents and good teeth.
How narrow is this sliver? Take the statistic that for the average American, none of his closest four friends finished college.  How many of your friends have never been to college?  Almost all my friends have graduate degrees.  On the other side of the ledger, how many of your friends make less than $20,000 a year? (Students don't count). Half of American families do.  I sure don't know any of them.

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