John Edward, a resident of Chelmsford who earned his master’s degree at UMass Lowell and who teaches economics at Bentley University and UMass Lowell, contributes the following column:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
Quoting the opening words from A Tale of Two Cities might seem obvious or even trite. If so, it is only because these words, and much of Dickens’ work, are so apt for our times.
The gap between the rich and everyone else has reached historic levels. Government agencies, academia and research groups are documenting what is going on. We can quantify the problem.
What we need is for someone to explain what is going on – to put it in human terms, to be read by the masses. We need another Charles Dickens.
UMass Lowell English Professor Diana Archibald aptly describes what made Dickens’ observations so powerful: “Most people look right through or past the evidence of social injustice. I remember an elderly woman once telling me, ‘I’m invisible. Nobody ever talks to me. Nobody even looks at me.’ But, you see, Dickens did look at people like her.” Professor Archibald is one of the organizers of a series of events celebrating Dickens in Lowell.
Dickens’ fiction did more to expose the ugliness of inequality in 19th century England than any journalist or economist. He vividly portrayed the divide between rich and poor as personified by characters like Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.
The divide between rich and poor has grown ugly in 21st century United States. In the 1970s, the top 1 percent of income earners received less than 10 percent of total income. Now they are getting almost 25 percent.
The top 1 percent has incomes greater than $350,000. Half of them have income over $550,000. Their average income is about a million dollars. For the poor, the average income is around $11,000. read more »