America’s perceptions of class conflict on the rise

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What if DePaul University decided to cancel the debts of a limited number of students, as a one-time offer?

“Yeah, I support it. I think it would be a great gesture,” said Segun Dent, a graduate computer art and multimedia student at DePaul.

A 375-year-old bank in France has decided to do just that. Crédit Municipal de Paris is cancelling the debts of 3,500 customers who owed 150 euros ($190) or less.

This one-time fix might simply be a kind gesture, but some are worried that it could cause more problems than it solves.

“I think it would be great, although I can definitely see where people who owe more would be upset and say it’s unfair,” said Jennifer Brinkman, an undecided freshman at DePaul.

According to a new Pew Research Survey, there has been a significant shift in public perceptions of class conflict in America. With protests like Occupy Wall Street centered around class injustices, 71 percent of young adults between 18 to 34 years say there are major disagreements between the most and least affluent in America. This is a 17 percent increase since 2009.

“Yes, there is disparity between the rich and the poor. This is, in fact, a national concern,” said Nestor Guzman, a junior secondary education major at DePaul.

The survey also revealed that 71 percent of these young adults think the way our government handles these major fiscal disagreements is not a long-term strategy made with collective interest in mind. They think the solutions often benefit some more often than others.

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, the proportion of overall wealth held by the top 10 percent of the population increased from 49 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2009.

CEOs are a major part of that 10 percent. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average CEO in 2009 made 185 times more that the average worker. In 2010, that number went up to 325 percent.

The perception that strong and growing conflicts exist between the economic classes is broadly held.

The Pew Research Center survey of 2,048 adults found that about two-thirds of the public (66 percent) believes there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), new budget estimates predict the government’s deficit will surpass the 2009 record of $1.4 trillion and reach $1.5 trillion in 2011.

Although DePaul students will not be seeing tuition bailouts any time soon, we wish Parisians the good fortune of enjoying their unexpected windfall.