The Future of the American Underclass

The Future of the American Underclass


In the Washington Post, Gregory Clark sees a set of grim choices ahead: tax and spend to support a growing underclass of the unskilled and superannuated, or watch poverty grow, with attendant unrest.

Reading between the lines, one sees Clark managing to slip a little HBD into the Post’s august pages:

Others see education as a way out of this dystopia. The root problem is, after all, the widening of the income gap between the skilled and the unskilled. Can expanded education give the poorest the tools to resist the march of the machines? I’m skeptical. Already, much of the supposed improvement in high school and college graduation rates has come by asking less of graduates. We can certainly arrange to have everyone “graduate” from high school, but whether they will have the skills needed to make it is doubtful.

However, Clark never manages to mention the i-word: immigration. He blames technology and a skills gap for the growing division between haves and have-nots, but where are all those unskilled people coming from?

Then there are rising health care costs.

Adult-onset diabetes, for example, estimated to afflict more than 21 million Americans, is a chronic condition associated with a lifestyle occurring at high rates among lower-income people. Modern medicine allows the average person diagnosed with diabetes to live more than 15 additional years, but at a cost typically exceeding $100,000. (Twenty-one million times $100,000 is $2.1 trillion, and that’s just one disease.)

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