Dr. Cammie Sublette
September 7, 2012
American Inequality in American Psycho
Set in the Manhattan of 1989, Brett Easton Ellis's novel American Psycho sketches the life of Patrick Bateman, an attractive 26-year-old Harvard graduate who earns a six-figure income on Wall Street. Bateman and his Ivy League educated friends enjoy all the luxury Manhattan has to offer, including expensive restaurants, exclusive nightclubs and excessive amounts of cocaine. However, what their money, education and beauty truly affords them is the right to humiliate, harass, and in Bateman's case to kill, those in the social classes beneath them. The satirical, yet horrific, story that unfolds throughout American Psycho highlights the inequality between the richest and poorest Americans, a gap that widened substantially in the 1980s thanks in part to the economic policies of Ronald Reagan.
In addition to reducing the tax rate on wealthy Americans from 70% to 28%, President Reagan authorized deregulation that encouraged corporate mergers and made cuts to social programs that left many Americans homeless (Foner 1037). By reducing the tax rate, Reagan intended to encourage sound private investments thereby creating jobs. However, many affluent Americans used the money saved in taxes to purchase luxury products instead. Corporate mergers, or more bluntly corporate takeovers, spurred the deindustrialization of America. While deindustrialization eliminated many high-paying manufacturing jobs and left several Americans unemployed, the corporate takeovers that spurred the deindustrialization created a tremendous amount of wealth on Wall Street. Reagan also reduced funds allotted for public housing and psychiatric hospitals. This fiscal decision only increased the number of homeless individuals across America, especially in urban areas such as New York City (Foner 1037-40).
Throughout American Psycho Bateman's Wall Street cohorts address the rampant homelessness in...