Living In an Elitist Bubble Doesn't Mean You Can't Relate to the Rest of America

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coming apart charles murray
Charles Murray
argues in his new book, Coming Apart, The State of White America, 1960-2012, that American exceptionalism is threatened by our policy-makers living in an elitist bubble. 

He writes: 

As the new upper class increasingly consists of people who were born into upper-middle-class families and have never lived outside the upper-middle-class bubble, the danger increases that the people who have so much influence on the course of the nation have little direct experience with the lives of ordinary Americans, and make their judgments about what’s good for other people based on their own highly atypical lives.

Basically, he’s saying that Barack Obama, Harry Reid, John Boehner, and the rest of them don’t have a clue as to the ordinary goings-on of us average people. That’s probably why they do things like require us to buy toilets that don’t work and light bulbs full of poisonous mercury. 

Those in Washington may have the best intentions when they do things like require Americans to purchase health insurance for the very act of breathing, but they fail to see how that will affect the lives of ordinary Americans. Ensconced in their bubbles, they like the idea of ‘helping’ people, so they pass legislation without any idea as to how the majority of us tick. 

Curious as to how thick my bubble is, I took the quiz and scored a decently dense 37, which Murray describes as, “A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents.” That sounds about right; my parents both came from working class families and went on to become lawyers. My husband is a VP at a software development firm, our kids go to private school, and I’m typing this on a Macbook Pro, with my beloved iPhone by my side. 

For all intents and purposes, I live a blessed, privileged life. Which leads me to conclude that the bubble is irrelevant when you recognize that it exists. No, I don’t know what it’s like to be a single mom, or work the night shift on the factory floor, or drive a cab, or drive cattle on the ranch, or any number of things that many Americans do every day.

What I do know is that you can’t legislate prosperity. I know how to manage a budget, how to work my hiney off to provide for my family, and that sometimes life isn’t fair. I know that people are incredibly capable of making their own decisions and that if they fail, they will pick themselves back up and try again. 

I don’t pretend to know what others want or even need, and take care to listen to them. Maybe congress should try listening to mainstream America instead of lobbyists. Just because they live in a bubble doesn’t mean that it’s impenetrable.


How thick is your bubble? Take the quiz.

barack obama, corporations, discrimination, economy, environment, in the news, media, politics, taxes

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nonmember avatar kay

Where in that snippet did you read President Obama. He was not born into a upper middle class family or even middle class. He was raised by a single mother living a humble existence. He even used his mother's experience with the insurance companies while she battled cancer as an inspiration for healthcare reform.

RaeAn... RaeAnne.USAF

A lifelong resident of a working-class neighborhood with average televi-sion and moviegoing habits.


Range: 48–99. Typical: 77. I scored an 86. yup it seems to fit

AyaTa... AyaTachihara

Oh yes, someone who has never had to struggle for anything in their lifetime understands people who struggle every day just to survive. BS. Be a single mother raising three kids on a minimum wage income with no support system for a momth and then get back on your macbook and write about it when you have some experience in the matter. 

nonmember avatar toggin

AyaTachihara, I don't believe she's saying that she understands it as you do. She's saying that she recognizes it. It seems like you're too quick to judge her without taking time to carefully read what she has said in order to determine if what she said has merit.

This is the problem. We are too quick to put down others simply because, in our minds, we think their POV doesn't matter because it differs from our own. And, in a snobbish sort of way, we look down upon them for even voicing that opinion.

I think you'd be better served by saying what she wrote that you specifically have a problem with rather than belittling her for having a life that you obviously envy.

tayanna2 tayanna2

Got an 81, hubby scored a 43.

nonmember avatar Chrissie

I scored a 54: A first- generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and moviegoing habits. Range: 42–100. Typical: 66

Yup, that's me!

nonmember avatar jaime

I think what it is hard for people who don't live at the bottom of the pile to understand is that often, not always but often, it doesn't matter how hard you work, or how well you budget, or how many times you get up to try again. You will lose. My parents both worked hard their whole lives, and then dad got sick. Really sick. Now they've lost everything, my mom can't work because he requires round the clock care...if she doesn't want her fifty six year old husband in a state nursing home, she has to be the one to pick up the slack. I help when I can, but have to live over an hour away so my husband can have a decent job. I can't afford the gas to go more than once a week. We budget and pinch every dollar, buy second hand. And when we are lucky we put back maybe 30 bucks a week in savings. I'm not complaining. I love my husband, my son and our life. But that "if you work real hard and try, then you will get ahead, if you don't then you just didn't try hard enough!" attitude makes me mad as hell, because its a lie. When the house you saved your whole life for suddenly has an upside down mortgage because of some greedy clueless bankers, its a lie. When you watch your mom age ten years in two, because no one who cares can afford to help, its a lie. Perhaps 60 years ago it wasn't, but today it is.

Jenny... JennyErikson

Toggin, I think that is one of my favorite comments ever. <3

nonmember avatar Ashley

My goodness that quiz was spot on! "A second- generation (or more) upper-middle-class person who has made a point of getting out a lot" That's me! This makes me want to read his book, thanks!

butte... butterflymkm

I love and agree with Jaime's comment.

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