WEALTH AND PRIVILEGE: The American Ruling Class, Clip 1

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WEALTH AND PRIVILEGE: The American Ruling Class, Clip 1

The American Ruling Class, Clip 1 (6:00) (Links to an external site.)

Who owns America? The people? Corporations? Both? In this selection, we learn how public ownership of stocks and mutual funds might appear to disperse ownership and wealth. In reality, ownership is often concentrated in hidden ways. This clip also discusses how wealth and power are often maintained by force.

POVERTY: The American Ruling Class, Clip 2

The American Ruling Class, Clip 2 (5:04) (Links to an external site.)

In this selection, Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper’s magazine, interviews journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. While sitting in a booth at an IHOP, she describes how service workers typically work for extremely low wages and barely maintain a subsistence standard of living, even when they hold multiple jobs. These people are barely visible, but their low wages subsidize relatively low-priced services for the middle and affluent classes.

  1. Based on this clip, who owns America?
  2. How does one become a member of the “ownership” class?
  3. Why has wealth become more concentrated since the 1950s?
  4. Have “rising tides lifted all boats”? Why or why not?
  5. Why are so many low-wage workers struggling to make ends meet, even as they work full-time?
  6. How do Ehrenreich’s findings challenge the notion that people are poor because they are lazy and/or unwilling to work?
  7. Some people might suggest that people earning low wages should get an education and then a better job. What are the problems with this suggestion-?
  8. Why does Ehrenreich argue that low-wage workers are the “true philanthropists”?

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