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All Bootstraps Are Not Created Equal

That should seem like an obvious statement, but it’s one that doesn’t seem obvious at all to republican voters. The "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" crowd simply refuse to acknowledge that bootstraps come in different shapes, sizes, and are made of vastly different materials.

Republicans and libertarians live in a utopia where everyone starts off equal, so there’s no reason for any attempt at leveling the playing field in order to ensure that some of us don’t fall off. Actually, that’s not true. Republican operatives and politicians know. The clueless ones are their voters, who are being played and bootstrapped into voting against their own self interest. They need their Horatio Alger fantasy more than they need a living wage and an opportunity to get an affordable education.

How unequal is the playing field? There was an interesting piece in the New York Times that took a closer look at how the circumstances of your birth affect the outcome of your success.

Here are some of the statistics they came up with. The author only looked at male baby boomers, and the probability that they would achieve the same level of success as their fathers. The sexism made looking at just the men seem like the most accurate way to examine the situation. He looked at the presidency and calculated that the son of a president is 1.4 times more likely to become a president, than others in his peer group. That’s obviously based on too small a sample size, but it’s a fun fact nonetheless. The more statistically sound thing to look at is governors. He estimated that one in fifty sons of governors became governors themselves. That’s a rate 6,000 times higher than that of non-gubernatorial bootstrap owners. But if you really want a career in government, you need to make sure that your bootstraps are born to a senator, which would make your odds of becoming a senator 8,500 times more likely than sons with non-senatorial bootstraps. Here are some more statistics;

  • The son of a basketball player in the NBA has a 1 in 45 chance of getting into the NBA. That’s an 800x advantage over the non-NBA bootstrap. He didn’t provide numbers, but he said that they were much lower for baseball and football players (probably because of the height factor in basketball).
  • The son of an army general is 4,582 times more likely to become a general. So much for the military being a true meritocracy.
  • The son of a CEO is 1,895 times more likely to become a CEO.
  • The son of a Pulitzer Prize winner is 1,639 times more likely to become a Pulitzer Prize winner.
  • The son of a Grammy winner is 1,497 times more likely to become a Grammy winner.
  • The son of an Oscar winner is 1,361 times more likely to become an Oscar winner.
  • The son of a billionaire is 28,000 times more likely to become a billionaire.

People think of the US as the land of opportunity. Those people would be wrong. Compared to other large economy, developed countries, the US second to last in upward mobility, after the UK. If you want the best shot at upward mobility, that filthy bastion of socialism, Denmark is where you want to be. Your next best bet is Norway, where the socialism also runs rampant. The next most desirable place to live if you want a chance at upward mobility is Finland. Wanna guess what it costs to get higher education in Finland? Yep, just like Denmark and Norway, Finland’s higher education system is plagued with socialism.

Seventy percent of the people born into the lower economic quintile in the US, don’t make it to the middle class. The good news is that upward mobility hasn’t gotten worse in the past 30 years. It’s just always been shitty.  

Huh. It almost seems like giving everyone an equal opportunity at an education creates more opportunity for upward mobility. Weird. Could it be that the most common use of bootstraps are to bitch slap poor people into staying in their economic lane?   


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