We spend to pretend that we're upper class. And when the dust clears - when bankruptcy hits or a family member bails us out of our stupidity - there's nothing left over. Nothing for the kids' college tuition, no investment to grow our wealth, no rainy-day fund if someone loses her job.
Barack Obama was elected during my second year of college, and save for his skin color, he had much in common with Bill Clinton: Despite an unstable life with a single mother, aided by two loving grandparents, he had made in his adulthood a family life that seemed to embody my sense of the American ideal.
Liberals have to get more comfortable with dealing with the poor as they actually are. I admire their refusal to look down on the least among us, but at some level, that can become an excuse to never really look at the problem at all.
Faith gave me the belief that there was somebody looking out for me, that there was a hopeful future on the other side of all the things I was going through.
Policies that promote better wages and better jobs would be super-helpful, and I'm a big fan of programs that encourage people to go where jobs are.
Folks like me have to feel a little indebted to the communities that they came from. And if they do, I think we'll start to see a little bit more of a geographic integration in the country because people will start to think, 'You know what? I owe that place something, and I should return to it in one form or another.'
Stanford's law school application wasn't the standard combination of college transcript, LSAT score, and essays. It required a personal sign-off from the dean of your college: You had to submit a form, completed by the dean, attesting that you weren't a loser.
The sometimes-tough love of the Christian faith of my childhood demanded a certain amount of self-reflection and, occasionally, self-criticism.
I think what Trump will be judged on by the folks that voted for him... is whether things start to get a little bit better over the next few years. And ultimately, that doesn't depend on whether Jeff Sessions is the attorney general.
Whether I'm speaking to conservative or liberal audiences, I don't find that people are close-minded about the things I say. I'm still optimistic that we can bridge a divide between these various bubbles. But I do think that it requires a little bit of effort.
My family has existed in eastern Kentucky for as long as there are records. If you're familiar with the famous Hatfield-McCoy family feud back in the 1860s, '70s and '80s in the United States, my family was an integral part of that.
People have lost their faith that if they work hard, if they try to get ahead, if they play by the rules, then that will ultimately result in positive outcomes.
The regulatory approach of the Food and Drug Administration and the Patent and Trademark Office has driven up the costs of generic drugs.
I eventually got to the point where I was like, 'Well, if I can't believe in the Big Bang Theory and be a good Christian, then maybe I'm not a good Christian.'
People don't want to believe they have to speak like Obama or Clinton to participate meaningfully in politics, because most of us don't speak like Obama or Clinton.
When I started law school in 2010, I would have called myself an atheist. When I graduated law school in 2013, I was exploring my faith again. A lot changed in those three years.
It's very hard to be a practicing Christian in the 21st-century world if you set things up as, 'Everyone is against us. You can't believe modern science, modern media or modern political institutions because they're all conspiring against Christians.'
I almost failed out of high school. I nearly gave in to the deep anger and resentment harbored by everyone around me... Whatever talents I have, I almost squandered until a handful of loving people rescued me.
I once interviewed my grandma for a class project about the Second World War. After 70 years filled with marriage, children, grandchildren, death, poverty and triumph, the thing about which she was unquestionably the proudest and most excited was that she and her family did their part during the war.
It seems to me an indictment of the Republican Party that if you talk about issues of poverty and upward mobility, people assume you're a Democrat.
It's not just that government has failed us. It's not just that we have failed ourselves. It's government. It's individuals. It's sort of everything in between, from families and communities and neighborhoods, churches and so forth.
It would be great if people returned to areas of the country that need talented people with good economic prospects. Our country would really benefit if those who went to elite universities, who started businesses, who started nonprofits, weren't just doing so on the coasts.
Undoubtedly, church fish fries and picnics help build social cohesion. It was at my dad's medium-size evangelical church - my first real exposure to a sustained religious community - that I first saw people of different races and classes worshiping together.
If you had looked at my life when I was 14 years old and said, 'Well, what's going to happen to this kid?' you would have concluded that I would have struggled with what academics call upward mobility.
We need to think about how we teach working-class children about not just hard skills, like reading and mathematics, but also soft skills, like conflict resolution and financial management.
When people read 'Breitbart' every single day and convince themselves that Barack Obama is a foreign terrorist, that is not a problem of government. That is a problem of community failure, and we have to recognize that.
I have never felt out of place in my entire life. But I did at Yale.
Trump brings power to those who hate their lack of it, and his message is tonic to communities that have felt nothing but decline for decades.
There are definitely - there is definitely an element of Donald Trump's support that has its basis in racism or xenophobia. But a lot of these folks are just really hardworking people who are struggling in really important ways.
On my first day at Yale Law School, there were posters in the hallways announcing an event with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister. I couldn't believe it: Tony Blair was speaking to a room of a few dozen students? If he came to Ohio State, he would have filled an auditorium of a thousand people.
It's jarring to live in a world where every person feels his life will only get better when you came from a world where many rightfully believe that things have become worse. And I've suspected that this optimism blinds many in Silicon Valley to the real struggles in other parts of the country. So I decided to move home to Ohio.
I didn't come from the elites. I didn't come from the Northeast or from San Francisco. I came from a southern Ohio steel town, and it's a town that's really struggling in a lot of ways, ways that are indicative of the broader struggles of America's working class.
Every two weeks, I'd get a small pay-check and notice the line where federal and state income taxes were deducted from my wages. At least as often, our drug-addict neighbor would buy T-bone steaks, which I was too poor to buy for myself but was forced by Uncle Sam to buy for someone else.
I've always just felt a little out of place. I still feel out of place in San Francisco. It's this place where everything is going great, and everyone feels super optimistic about the world. It's a little different about how I grew up.
My military service is the thing I'm most proud of, but when I think of everything happening in the Middle East, I can't help but tell myself I wish we would have achieved some sort of lasting victory. No one touched that subject before Trump, especially not in the Republican Party.
We're very good at talking about the individual in American politics and excellent at talking about the government. But we have little ability to even acknowledge everything that exists in the middle, and given how influential politics is on every other part of our life, I think that failure of discourse is pretty corrosive to our overall culture.
I went to Yale to earn a law degree. But that first year at Yale taught me most of all that I didn't know how the world of the American elite works.
For complicated historical and political reasons, we associate 'poor' in our public consciousness with 'black.' Terms such as 'welfare queen' and 'culture of poverty' became associated uniquely with the social maladies of African Americans in urban ghettos, despite the fact that poor whites outnumbered poor blacks.
Trump's voters loathe Jeb Bush because their lives are falling apart, and they blame people like him.
From the Marines, from Ohio State, from Yale, from other places, people have really stepped in and ensured that they filled that social capital gap that it was pretty obvious, apparently, that I had.
The factories that moved overseas used to provide not just high-paying jobs but also a sense of purpose and community.
The evangelical Christian faith I'd grown up with sustained me. It demanded that I refuse the drugs and alcohol on offer in our southwestern Ohio town, that I treat my friends and family kindly, and that I work hard in school. Most of all, when times were toughest, it gave me reason to hope.
I could never understand why our lives felt like a struggle while those living off government largesse enjoyed trinkets that I only dreamed about.
If it's hard for Blue America to see Red America as anything other than a bunch of dumb, racist rednecks; it's hard for Red America to recognize that many minorities are legitimately worried about what a Trump presidency means for their family.
One of the things that concerns me is that so few people who go and get an education elsewhere... feel any real... pull for returning home.
I never thought, when I was a kid, that there was a sense of competition or animosity towards poor blacks. I just thought there was a recognition that they lived differently - they primarily lived on the other side of town. And we're both poor, but that's kind of it. There wasn't much explicit statement of kinship or of the lack of kinship.
We spend our way to the poorhouse. We buy giant TVs and iPads. Our children wear nice clothes thanks to high-interest credit cards and payday loans. We purchase homes we don't need, refinance them for more spending money, and declare bankruptcy, often leaving them full of garbage in our wake. Thrift is inimical to our being.
It seems that in the rush to be the first one to the story, the media overstates things. Not maliciously; I don't think they're intentionally misleading. But the credibility gap is already there, and in this rush to get to the story first, a lot of mainstream outlets just erode their credibility further.