Start telling one section of society that they're holding back another, and you'll get fierce reactions in no time.
That's just what Richard Reeves is doing in his new book, “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else In The Dust, Why That Is A Problem, And What To Do About It." He joined us on our show today, and received excited responses — both positive and negative — online and on air.
Virginia, a caller from Winchester, Massachusetts, said Reeves was misplacing his blame. High costs of living, not hardworking Americans, contribute to class divisions, she said.
"I'm frankly infuriated by this conversation," Virginia told us on air.
She said she lives in an affluent community with safe neighborhoods and good schools for her kids, but doesn't see herself as a selfish "dream hoarder," as Reeves might say.
"This notion that I don't recognize how blessed I am," she said, "that I can live in a community where my kids aren't having horrible things happen to them or gunfire going off, or something like that, and I don't appreciate it — is crazy."
Reeves, happy to engage Virginia's point of view, was quick to point out that the fault of the upper middle class isn't with parenting choices, but policy priorities.
"Nothing in my argument or my book is about blaming parents for wanting to be good parents," he said.
Rather, the upper middle class crosses into "hoarding" territory when they oppose school integrations and more inclusive zoning practices. Or when they flex their legacy and affluence to get their child into a good college or choice internship.
"There's a big difference between being a good parent and living, as I do, in a safe neighborhood with good public schools and so on," Reeves said, "and rigging the system in our favor."
Reeves also argues that the members of the upper middle class, a demographic he defines by a household income in the top 20 percent of society, fail to see just how good they have it.
"You end up convincing yourself that things are really pretty tough for me," he said. "Well they're not as tough as people pretend they are."
And was our caller Virginia convinced by Reeves' argument?
"I am just the opposite," she said. "I almost hung up."
This segment originally aired during this show.
This segment aired on June 21, 2017.