When Americans express indifference about the problem of unequal incomes, it’s usually because they see the United States as a land of boundless opportunity. Sure, you’ll hear it said, our country has pretty big income disparities compared with Western Europe. And sure, those disparities have been widening in recent decades. But stark economic inequality is the price we pay for living in a dynamic economy with avenues to advancement that the class-bound Old World can only dream about.
Frank Capra, Hollywood’s Horatio Alger, lights with more cinematic know-how and zeal than any other director to convince movie audiences that American life is exactly like the Saturday Evening Post covers of Norman Rockwell. It’s a Wonderful Life, the latest example of Capracorn, shows his art at a hysterical pitch. Capra’s moralizing, which is driven home in films packed with absurdly over-simplified characterizations and unbearable whimsy, is presented with great talent almost wholly through visual detail.
Overshadowed by the immigration rumble between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry in the Las Vegas debate was a string of statements that sounded awfully heretical -- a sign, perhaps, that economic anxiety and even the Occupy Wall Street protests are poking ever the tiniest holes in the bubble of GOP orthodoxy. First, there was Rick Santorum noting for the second straight debate that western Europe now has higher rates of upward mobility than the land of Horatio Alger -- and this time he didn't even blame this on Barack Obama.