It’s the summer of Gatsby! Everyone is rushing to re-read the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic before heading off to see Leonardo diCaprio in a cool, air-conditioned theater. But the literary classic that shed a little light on the haves and have-nots (albeit fictional ones), has presented an opportunity for the White House to find a pop culture meme with which to spread its message about income inequality.
It seems that, as in Jay Gatsby’s pre-depression 1920s, as the rich get richer, the poor might not actually get poorer, but the opportunities to pull oneself into a higher economic strata diminish. The economist who coined the Gatsby analogy, Alan Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, explained it this way:
“The Great Gatsby Curve illustrates the connection between concentration of wealth in one generation and the ability of those in the next generation to move up the economic ladder compared to their parents.
“The curve shows that children from poor families are less likely to improve their economic status as adults in countries where income inequality was higher – meaning wealth was concentrated in fewer hands – around the time those children were growing up.”
According to the White House, this type of inequality spread has been on then rise since 1980 — you know, an era when many conservatives were in love with the idea of President Ronald Reagan and his “trickle down” economic theories?
By making this argument, and comparing our economy with those of other countries, President Obama is hoping to bolster his case for the need for improving early education opportunities as a path to better economic situations for coming generations.
What do you think — is this a fair analogy, or just a way to get a little summer blockbuster attention?
Joanne Bamberger is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Broad Side. She was formerly known around these internet parts as PunditMom, but now she is trying to be herself. She is the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (an Amazon.com bestseller and now available in E-book form!). She was recently awarded the Campaigns & Elections Magazine/CampaignTech 2013 Advocacy Innovator Award for her research and writing on the power and influence of women online. And, yes, Joanne did diligently re-read The Great Gatsby in anticipation of seeing it in the theater this summer.
Image via Wikimedia Commons