Addressing a widening opportunity gap

Alan Milburn


INTRODUCTION: In good times and bad, Americans have told themselves this is the land of opportunity --
social mobility. With hard work and pluck,
a poor person can achieve the American Dream.

This week, we're bringing you a series called "Next American Dream" and we're getting an international perspective. Alan Milburn is a member of the British Parliament. He advises the prime minister on Britain's growing gap between rich and poor. Mr. Milburn, what's the reason for that gap?

ALAN MILBURN: I think what's happened is that more people have been able to get onto the ladder to prosperity, but because if you like, there's a bit of a two-tier labor market now, and at the bottom end it's so much harder for people to get onto the ladder out of adversity. You've had a growing gap.

RADKE: What are some reasons for the difficulty that you call it the lower tier is having?

MILBURN: Well, if I take something like getting a job in the professions, becoming a lawyer or a doctor or working in the media, or heaven help us, becoming a politician, a lot of these professions have become more and not less socially exclusive over recent years. So we've just published some data, which indicates that nowadays to become a doctor or a lawyer the chances are that you come from a family with far higher incomes on average than the average family. And that's a big change from certainly when I grew up. There were more people from average income families -- what President Clinton once famously called the forgotten middle class -- who were producing future generations of doctors and lawyers. Nowadays, it tends to be a bit more self-perpetuating. That, if you're born into wealth, you keep wealth; if you're born into poverty, very often, unfortunately, you stay in poverty.

RADKE: In the states we expect social mobility to just happen in the free market. We don't have a social mobility adviser. How do you see the government role as different from what the private sector can do?

MILBURN: In the end, the government's job -- it seems to me -- in any country, is to make sure the economy works in the interest of the majority and not the minority. And it's to make sure that if people have aspirations and abilities and aptitudes, they're given the opportunity to realize their own aspirations to progress.

RADKE: Member of parliament Alan Milburn, thank you.

MILBURN: Pleasure.

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I find the most important factor to getting a job or chosen for committees, partners whatever ... is not skill, knowledge, dedication -- it is the ability to "fit"the deciders preconceptions and make that decision-maker FEEL GOOD.

Now if you don't know the job, that my get you FIRED, but that's after the fact.

To recap, we should stop pretending that just learning cognitive intelligence is enough. The Üpper Class" know that and teach their children to connect socially and schmooze effectively.

Now that just about anyone can go to college, that ability to network, to learn EQ or Social Intelligence is all the more important.

Children who lack EQ or Social Intelligence and fail to figure it out on their own as adults can have all the paper education ... and still never get the chance at a job that will really use their talents.

I have sought to address my own "widening opportunity gap" by gaining perspective on my situation. 1. I have accepted that I am not all that. 2. I have learned how to re-frame the negative projections of formally entitled and unentitled people to stabilize my situation, and 3. I have learned the Art of Verbal Ai-Ki-Do to "give back to those unjust/sinful accusers/pessimists in my life the "lemons of sour attitudes and the "rocks" of their false accusations and defamation. In short, I am giving people back their "baggage" of disrespect.

Short article that makes "success" in the status quo seem pretty daunting

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