Fred goes further in pointing out that commentators are all bright people and they only talk to other bright people, and get an exaggerated view of human capability.
Some commentators urge letting people invest their Social Security taxes in the stock market. To them it is a question of abstract freedom and probably the Federalist papers. The commentators are smart enough to invest money. I’ll guess that at least half the population isn’t. Go into the tit bar (does it still exist) in Waldorf, Maryland, and ask the dump-truck drivers and nail-pounders what NASDAQ is.
Liberal commentators want everyone to go to college, when about a fifth of people have the brains. Conservatives think that people can rise by hard work and sacrifice as certainly many people have. Thing is, most people can’t. Commentators only see those who made it.
The tendency of the Beltway 99th to live in an imaginary world, of conservatives to think that everybody can be a Horatio Alger, of liberals to believe that inequality arises from discrimination, guarantees wretched policy. Those who can do almost anything need to recognize the existence of those who can do almost nothing. Few of the latter are parasites. The waitress has worked all her life, as has the truck driver. They ended up with nothing.
It's a powerful argument; but is it true? The temptation is to "compassionate conservatism" which is sometimes known as paternalism. There are a lot of people who live their lives in quiet desperation and who are never going to achieve anything of national importance. It's not true that everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.
It is true enough that most of us -- by us I mean me, Fred, those who read this web site -- spend most of our time conversing with other smart people, and few of us have more than very brief interaction with people of IQ 90 or less (16% of the population). Half of the people are by definition below average, but I would suspect that most of the people we know are IQ 110 or above -- 16% of the population. As Fred observes, about 20% of the population has the brains for going to college. Those are the people we generally know. But it hardly makes everyone else stupid.
This is what I keep trying to remind my friends. What you see and hear in Washington D.C. is not truly reflective of how things are in the rest of the country. Shit, it's not even reflective of how things are outside the ring formed by Prince Georges, Montgomery, Arlington and Fairfax Counties. Thing is, if you never get out of the ring and listen to people in Fredericksburg, St. Ansgar, Cameron, and half a hundred other little urbs across the fruited plain, you're not going to know what the hell is going on with those people. And that would be a serious mistake.