The Haves and the Have-Nots

Having spent the week siding with Will Wilkinson against Jon Chait in the debate over whether crazy tax cutting has ruined America, let me briefly return to the grounds on which Will and I disagree - whether these are propitious times for a new left-populism - and point to the following Pew study:

Over the past two decades, a growing share of the public has come to the view that American society is divided into two groups, the "haves" and the "have-nots." Today, Americans are split evenly on the two-class question with as many saying the country is divided along economic lines as say this is not the case (48% each). In sharp contrast, in 1988, 71% rejected this notion, while just 26% saw a divided nation.

Of equal importance, the number of Americans who see themselves among the "have-nots" of society has doubled over the past two decades, from 17% in 1988 to 34% today. In 1988, far more Americans said that, if they had to choose, they probably were among the "haves" (59%) than the "have-nots" (17%). Today, this gap is far narrower (45% "haves" vs. 34% "have-nots").

One can certainly over-interpret these kind of numbers, but at the very least they provide the partisans of social democracy with something to work with.