Whatever Happened to the American Dream?
What makes America, America? We often hear talk of the “American Dream.” Americans have come to expect certain lifestyle advantages and political freedoms unparalleled by the rest of the world as a result of their American citizentship. At one time in our history that was true. In 1948, America, despite only having 5% of the population, manufactured a stunning 50% of the world’s goods. America once possessed over 95% of the world’s telephones and cars. But something has gone terribly wrong. American exceptionalism is no longer a guarantee. Our once-taken-for-granted civil liberties are disappearing at an alarming rate. Our public schools are producing illiterates at an alarming rate. And when one takes a look at the economic prowess of the American middle class from an historical perspective spanning the last 30+ years, the picture is indeed bleak. The notion of the American Dream is fast becoming, for many, the American Nightmare.
Before we can truly understand the daunting threats to America’s prosperity and security, we must first take a look at the fundamental expectations American have regarding their country. I conducted a qualitative analysis derived from various publications and I translated the data into a quantitative interpretation. There were some very consistent themes which surfaced in my analysis and they are expressed in the following paragraphs. I feel compelled to warn those of us who are awake to the realities of the dangers we are facing, the expectations of the mainstream of Americans is very idealistic, almost to the point of being exceptionally naive.
The fundamental research question which guided my inquiry was: What is the American Dream and how does it translate into one’s own personal life?
Subsequent to researching the above question, I analyzed the trends in American and compared them to expressed American expectations from life and what I discovered what can only be described as a serious disconnect between American expectations and the social, political and financial realities of American life.
The answers are categorized below. I must confess that the answers, which constituted the American dream for many people, did not surprise me because it is what I heard and believed growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s. What became clear from the results was that every post World War II generation has shared a set of commonly held beliefs that are uniquely American and are amazingly optimistic.
The Ten Elements Comprising the American Dream
1) America is the land of opportunity. If one is willing to work hard enough, they can become a “rags to riches” story.
2) The opportunities that parents will leave their children will be greater than the previous generation.
3) Despite the character and behavior of some politicians, the American system endures and serves the interest of the people because of the United States Constitution.
4) It is the job of government officials and government agencies to protect the American people from the harm of greedy, self-serving corporations.
5) We will always be a nation that respects individual liberties such as freedom of religion and speech as well as protecting the rights of private property owners.
6) The American education system is the great equalizer and for some American citizens this unbridled access to learning levels the playing field between rich and poor as witnessed by the numerous accomplishments of economically poor Americans that have climbed the ladder of economic success.
7) Despite their philosophical differences, the incessant bickering between the Democrats and the Republicans, the political leadership as well as the rank and file of the two major parties really does have the best interest of America at heart.
8) Americans believe that our future safety is virtually guaranteed because of America’s awesome military might.
9) America is the lone remaining super power. As a result, the American people are reaping the benefits of our international dominance with an ever-increasing rising standard of living.
10) The Depression and World War II generation presided over the greatest change in American History bringing us unprecedented success as a nation and this success fully endures over six decades later.
As the reader will soon see, Americans can no longer take these 10 expectations that Americans have toward life in our country, as fact. I compared the optimistic view of America’s future with some economic and educational trends and found a gaping discrepancy between American expectations and American reality. Ultimately, what I discovered is that the winds of change are blowing across our once great nation. We are living in a time when the most transformative changes, since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, are taking place.
What jumps out from the data, is that America is besieged with a declining standard of living and the American Dream is on life-support.
1. In 1974, the United States government declared a health care crisis because we spent 7.5 percent of our gross national product on medical costs. Today we spend three times that much. (President Obama, 2008). What has happened to your health care premiums in the last few years?
2. 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
3. In December 2007, when the recession began, it was sitting at $54,916. In June 2009, when the recession supposedly ended, it was sitting at $53,508. Today, it is sitting at $50,964.
4. According to the Federal Reserve, the median net worth of all families in the United States declined “from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010. Where did it go? Try looking at banker bailouts. Call it the biggest wealth transfer in history, I call it the biggest bank robbery in history.
5. There has been a 39% increase in average daily TV viewing since 1960: Every research study which compares reading levels to television viewing for children, suggests an inverse relationship between the two variables. Beginning with Albert Bandura’s seminal research on television viewing (1965) to today’s research, the trend is clear. The more one watches television, the lower the reading level. This is called the dumbing down of America and it is deliberate.
6. Over 50 percent of all stocks and bonds are owned by just 1 percent of the U.S. population.
7. Despite the fact that Americans pay the most in healthcare costs in the world, we only have the 51st longest life span in the world (CIA Fact Book, 2011)
8. According to one recent survey, approximately one-third of all Americans are not paying their bills on time at this point.
9. Health insurance costs have risen by 23 percent since Barack Obama became president. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, health care costs accounted for just 9.5% of all personal consumption back in 1980. Today they account for approximately 16.3%.
10. The wealthiest 20 percent of all Americans now control 84 percent of all the wealth in America. Robert Reich (2006) stated that the upper 1% controls over 40% of the wealth in the U.S.
12. Over the past 15 years, the number of functionally illiterate 17-year-olds has more than doubled (NEA).
13. America has the largest number of functional illiterates in the industrial world (DOE).
14. There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing. That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.
15. In this re-enactment of the Hunger Games Agenda 21 scenario, the amount of money that the federal government gives directly to the American people has risen by 32 percent since Barack Obama entered the White House.
16. College Tuition rose eight times faster than inflation through the 1980’s and the 2000’s (Department of Education, 2011)
17. The 2.7 million Americans with the highest incomes will have as much after-tax income as the 100 million Americans with the combined lowest incomes (Robert Reich, 2006).
18. According to a recent report produced by Pew Charitable Trusts, approximately one out of every three Americans that grew up in a middle class household has slipped down the income ladder
19. The country’s share of wealth going to the bottom 80 percent of all households is now less than 16 percent (Robert Reich, 2006).
20. Tax policy changes since 1977 have provided the top one percent of households with an average tax cut worth more than $40,000 in 1999. The average tax cut that the richest one percent of households has received exceeds the entire income of households in the middle of the income spectrum (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Isaac Shapiro & Robert Greenstein, 2005)
21. Eminent domain cases enacted against American private property owners have risen over 300% in the past 10 years as compared to the previous 40 years. (Arizona Coalition to Protect Personal Property Rights, 2005). In Texas alone, NASCO threatens to displace a million Texans from their homes and places of work so that foreign investment firms can make “major bank” on highways built with American taxpayer monies. Arizona, Oklahoma and Colorado are next.
22. Inflation averages 5% per year. Over the past five years, has your income gone up by 25%? If not, you are poorer. (Government Accounting Office, 2005).
23. Less than 3% of German children live in poverty. Over 20% of all American kids do (UNICEF, 2002).
24. If you had a college degree in 1979, you were earning around 40 percent more than somebody with a high school degree. Now, if you have a college degree, you are earning over 80% more than somebody with a high school degree.
25. A 30-year-old man in the early 1970’s earned 15% more than his father did at that age. Today’s 30-year-old can expect to bring in 25% less than his dad did. (Forbes, 2008)
26. The wealthiest 400 families in the United States have about as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of all Americans do combined.
27. The Illinois Children’s Mental Health Act of 2003 provides for compulsory mental health program for all children aged 0-18 in order to “provide for screening to “ensure appropriate and culturally relevant assessment of young children’s social and emotional development with the use of standardized tools.”
28. Today, the wealthiest 1 percent of all Americans own more wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined.
29. Today, about one out of every four workers in the United States brings home wages that are at or below the poverty level
30. When George Bush (43) took office, a gallon of gas cost $1.57. Since our entire economy is oil dependent, ask yourself about the price of food, clothes and the basics of life since the price of oil has doubled since the advent of King George II who was raised in an oil family.
When the Titanic was sunk in 1912, 60% of the first class passengers survived, 40% of the second class survived and only 25% of the third. Like the deck furniture on the Titanic, the furniture is merely being arranged in preparation for the final voyage of America. The economic standard of living survival rates, by socioeconomic standards, will more than likely parallel the Titanic survival rates on its fateful journey.
The Dirty Thirty is not a series of accidental events which have coincidentally coalesced to bring about weakening of America. America is minimally surviving solely on momentum created several decades ago. Yet, the myth of the American Dream is still alive and well. Most Americans are in a state of abject denial. Our country is asleep at the wheel while the economic advantages, once enjoyed by working Americans, are being stolen out from under our collective noses. Americans are under attack and have been occupied by the multinational corporations whose sole goal is to increase profits by any means possible. The global corporations want your labor and they want it as cheaply as possible. They want the complete erasure of our borders so they are free to move wherever labor costs and costs of production are the cheapest. They seek to erase all national identities through the encouragement of mass population migrations which we are seeing in North America and Europe. Most of all, they want your children to fight and die in seemingly meaningless wars so that the profits of Halliburton, KBR, Exxon Mobil and British Petroleum can be maximized on the backs of slave labor via the upcoming military draft. In short, the corporations are using the power of government to create a system of global feudalism where most of us will live the life of a serf for their entire existence. America’s options are becoming very limited. We are headed toward an impending train wreck and at some point time, there will no hiding the facts and Americans will fight. Why do you think our Kenyan President wants your guns and is in the process of giving control to the last free form of communication that we have left, the internet?
The American Dream, now deceased, needs to be replaced by the American Vision for a new future. Every American needs to be educated on who the real enemy is which are the bankers who have hijacked our government. Americans need to hunt down and imprison these bankers and it is not going to happen without a fight.
Say hello to the New Dark Ages