The drumbeat that "race plays a part of everything in America" doubtlessly affects the vision of blacks. A 1995 poll found blacks earning $50,000 or more were less likely to say "everyone has the power to succeed" in America than low-income whites.
Edwards and his ilk yap about the gap between the rich and the poor. Yes, the rich do get richer. But so do the poor. This is really about envy. A professor who taught business students once told a story something like this. He asked his class which scenario they preferred. In the first option a country, say, Japan, grows at approximately 7 percent a year, with the United States growing at 4 percent. Option two: Japan growing at 3 percent, and the United States growing at 3 percent. Most students preferred option two, even though it meant America grew less rapidly! Students happily accepted being less well off, so long as nobody else out-gained them.
As for actual, persistent poverty, Edwards and fellow naysayers refuse to face up to a couple of things. The failure to invest in oneself -- to get at least a high school education -- increases the chances of poverty. Similarly, a child born to a poor unwed mother as opposed to a poor married couple faces a far greater chance of growing up poor. We call this behavior.
Government policies like food stamps, AFDC, day care vouchers and health-care programs reward poor behavior. This hurts, not helps, the poor. But as economic demagogues like Edwards demonstrate, terms like "economic divide" and "two Americas" make great sound bites.