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Do you still believe in the American Dream?

Discussion in 'Political Discussion' started by JackPMiller, Oct 12, 2007.

  1. JackPMiller

    JackPMiller Rookie

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    http://www.alternet.org/workplace/64831/?page=entire

    Americans Don't Believe in the American Dream
    By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted October 12, 2007.

    More and more working Americans are realizing that the game is rigged against them.

    The American Dream is Dead, gone along with the era of good union jobs, comprehensive employer benefits and real upward mobility, and most working people are fully aware of the fact.

    That's the takeaway from the latest installment of the American Dream Survey, a study of working Americans' views of the political-economy released in late September.

    It paints a picture of an increasingly frustrated working majority who are having a harder time raising their families than the generation before them did, and who believe that things will be even worse for their kids. They have reason to believe it -- a 30-year assault on organized labor, neglected minimum wage increases, fewer educational opportunities and the constant tide of pro-business propaganda being pumped out by right-wing think tanks and business roundtables that enforces the idea that working people are faceless "inputs" -- costs that need to be controlled -- have left Americans with far less social mobility than they had a generation ago. Contrary to common belief, Americans have less opportunity to move up the economic ladder than Canadians and Western Europeans (except for those in the UK).

    To some extent the Dream was always a myth, especially for people of color, but in a very real sense we've reached a point in which we're looking at a break in America's implied social contract -- we were supposed to trade security, in the form of the kind of robust safety nets that they have in social democracies, for "dynamism," for supposedly unlimited opportunity. But the fact is that working people are walking a tightrope with little in the way of safety net, and they have less chances of making it big than their counterparts in other advanced economies.

    Conservatism killed the American Dream, and most working people understand that on some level. But while they blame the same elite corporatists as progressives have pointed to as the culprits for years, they are also deeply uncomfortable with the idea of class and, after 15 years of Democratic Party "triangulation," aren't sure which political party is responsible for casting them adrift, rudderless, on the currents of the global economy.

    The American Dream survey tested working people's views on a range of issues that fit into the frame of what people think of when they contemplate the "American dream." According to the researchers who conducted the survey, that consists of four cornerstone issues: "jobs with pay that can support a family, access to quality health care, chances for your children to succeed, and a secure and dignified retirement." Only full-time, nonmanagerial working adults with a household income of less that $100K were eligible for the study.

    When asked about these core issues of economic security, three out of four respondents said it's becoming "harder these days to achieve the American dream"; two thirds said it was harder for them than it was for their parents, and a similar number predicted it would be even more difficult for their kids. Eight of ten said that the economic situation that the next generation will face is likely to be worse than it is for adults working today.

    While the Bush administration and others on the right try to paint Americans' growing economic insecurity as some sort of irrational manifestation of the Zeitgeist -- a common claim is that the economy is going gang-busters but people are too down about the mess in Iraq to notice -- the truth is that stagnating wages and rising costs for housing, food, healthcare and gas are driving working America's pessimism. As one participant who hadn't seen a raise in some time put it, "There's no progress. There's no option. No more salary. That's it. We're static there. We all [have a] fear of being dismissed … if you leave there's like ten people in line waiting to get your job."

    Healthcare and retirement security are both key issues for working people that the business class in D.C. dance around but never address. Two-thirds of those surveyed said that they are either now or have recently been without health insurance, and more than half believe that they will retire at a later age than they had planned just five years ago.

    Working America doesn't buy the idea that these are the "natural" consequences of economic modernization -- innate rules of an economy created by God and untouchable by man -- and they don't believe that they're to blame for their eroding economic security. More than nine out of ten respondents -- including self-identified conservatives -- said that in America, hard, full-time work should lead to economic security for working families. They see run-away corporate power, the greed of upper management and a short-term fixation on the bottom line as the primary obstacles to the American dream. Two-thirds agreed with the statement: "When corporations are profitable, the benefits are not shared with workers but go only to the top," and a similar number believed that "the government doesn't do enough to rein in greedy and unethical behavior by corporations and CEOs."

    Finally, the survey showed that the death of activist government intervention has been greatly exaggerated. More than four in five workers want their government to "make sure employers keep their promises to employees, including protecting their pensions and health care," and to "create a more progressive tax system that is fair to workers and makes billionaires pay their fair share in taxes." More than three in four said that it should "hold large, global, multinational corporations accountable to pay their fair share for the problems they create in the world, such as environmental pollution and low wages" and "make it less profitable for companies to outsource jobs by removing tax breaks for sending jobs overseas."

    Intuitively, that should leave the country ready to embrace progressive economic policies, but they remain ambivalent to notions of class. One worker in an Illinois plant told researchers, "It's America not England you know. We don't have that class system," and another said: "I don't see myself as, I don't, I'm not referring to high class, middle class, or low class. It's just us -- it relates to work." It's the result of the great triumph of the corporate class -- the notion that we are all in the same boat and that it's somehow crass to note that the game is rigged against ordinary working people.

    The real takeaway is for Democrats and the corporatocracy's legion of Beltway supporters: Overwhelming majorities of working Americans -- self-identified swing voters and conservatives, as well as liberals and progressives -- are fed up, aren't buying the narrative the Chamber of Commerce is selling and are ripe for the picking. But they're not being given a real choice in terms of economic models -- there's only one that's acceptable to Big Business, and it has unflagging bipartisan support within the Beltway. As long as people have no alternatives to choose from, they'll make their decisions based on which candidates look better or worship at the same church or hate the same people they do or would be fun to share a beer with.

    Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer.
  2. Harry Boy

    Harry Boy Look Up, It's Amazing PatsFans.com Supporter

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    The American Dream:
    The Far Left Wing Liberal Socialist New Hollywood Democrats will wipe it from the history books then the Nation Of Islam will move in, take over and kill all the Liberals.
    Nothing Is Forever.
    Praise Allah
    Death To America The Great Satan
    :bricks:
  3. BelichickFan

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    #24 Jersey

    There has never been a time that was as good for the "American Dream" as there is today. It seems like expectations have risen to the point that if you aren't handed a $100K job with no education then you're being screwed. With 401Ks and the ease of personal investing it's easier than ever to become a millionaire. I understand some "can't". But a lot of people prefer to buy a new car every two years than to become part of the "investor society". My parents were a single income, one engineer salary, two kids, family and have a few million in their mutual funds. They inherited nothing, they just spent what the needed to, not what they wanted to, and built wealth. They can now leave that to their kids who will pass it on to their kids as neither my sister nor I are big spenders either.

    It's a phenomenally easy time to build wealth - you just have to do it.
  4. STFarmy

    STFarmy Rookie

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    "Do you still believe in the American Dream?"

    YES. Anytime that individuality is given up because of perceived hardship, freedoms are lost those who can "help" - usually the government. And we all know what happens when we resign our rights to government.
  5. QuiGon

    QuiGon Banned

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    Sounds to me like it's just a bunch of losers trying to explain their complete lack of achievement. It's not their fault they are such unaccomplished losers, it's America's fault.

    While I don't agree with the first half of that statement, I can only say "Thank God" for the second half.
  6. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    People are clueless about economics BF. They waste $180 on the newest pair of Nike's, or $600 a month on a LEASED Benz. Then they wonder why they can't get ahead when they don't go to school, learn a trade, or save and invest their money. What's amazing about that article is that it sites "conservativism" as the killer. That's uttlery ridiculous. When will people understand that it's over regulation, over taxation, bigger government, and larger entitlements that diminish growth, and curtail opportunity. Unions have gone the way of the toilet because of their greed. No company wants to deal with their BS so they don't unionize. Workers who discuss organizing typically don't because they like how it is. Look at the foreign auto companies who build here, and tell me how many are union and why? When people complain about Detoit losing manufacturing and auto plant jobs, they need look no further than how Honda and Toyota run their ops here. It's funny really. Government has grown over more and more over the years and people cite a loss of opportunity. Don't they understand why? You have two choices, less government and regulation with opportunity, or more government and regulation with socialism. I always think about Italy versus the USA. If people think that there is less opportunity to get ahead here, then they wouldn't like a socialist set up like they have in Italy.

    This doesn't even take into consideration the effect illegals have on wage suppression, and the burden they put on home owners, and tax payers in general.
  7. STFarmy

    STFarmy Rookie

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    That's pretty much what I was getting at in my post. If we simply give in and say "we can't succeed on our own," the next logical choice to turn to the government. And like you said, over-regulation and dependence on goverment would acutally be the death of the American dream.
  8. BelichickFan

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    #24 Jersey

    Yeah, I don't get it. I understand I make a solidly above average amount (because my wife and I both work full time) but when I look at my parents and their one (solid) income and what they've turned it into - I get it. Part of the reason is they never paid more than $5K for a car - even today. If 75% of Americans would save what they need and spend the rest - instead of spending what they want and saving what (if anything) is left then things would be totally different.
  9. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    It truly hits at the core of what is wrong with this country. People don't want to pay their dues, make sacrafices, and take the long road to prosperity. It's that "the working man is a sucker" bit. They see people making Z, and want the same. What they fail to understand is that those people made, X, and then Y first. It's all part of the appologist society we've become. Entitlements, expanded government, over extended credit, etc.. Tell me where there is more opportunity, in a free, capitalistic society, or a socialist, or even communist setting? The answer is simple. The more you hand cuff things, the harder it is for everyone.
  10. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    The economy is out of whack. I know a number of wealthy people and middle class people. The wealthy people are doing far better than the middle class. Many people in the trades, such as plumbers, builders, electricians, and so on, are finding good work slow. Many technology jobs at least in Massachusetts are paying 25% less than they paid in the 1990s, especially for contractors.

    But, wealthy people are doing great. A friend was just involved in bidding war. A house was on the market for $2.7 million, and my friend backed out at $3 million. The house sold to an investment banker for $3.5 million. In West Cambridge, where I live, during the 1990s, you saw evidence of renovation in front of every home, but now that is only taking place in front of the wealthy homes. A friend of mine wants to buy home, but is finding that the $300k she can afford as a college professor doesn't buy her much. (She's an adjunct and earns about $26k/year to teach 3 courses, which is pathetic in itself.)

    BF is right in that it's a good economy if you are part of the investor class. Unfortunately, many young people and people with families simply can't afford to sock much money away. Sure, make sacrifices now and you'll be okay later, but if you're earning $50k in a 5-person family, how many sacrifices should you have your kids at their formative age make so that you can invest? I think good parents put their retirement second to the quality of life for their kids.

    I think the income tax on the middle class should come down and capital gains on the wealthy should go up enough to discourage them from withdrawing their money and also to generate revenue for targeted tax cuts.
  11. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I don't think the issue with those who can afford to invest. I agree there are people like that who are short-sighted and stupid, and there also some who prefer to only live for the moment and won't complain later on. But, the problem is for the large number of people who are struggling between mortgages, college loans, daycare, and the many other economic challenges that people face.
  12. Turd Furguson

    Turd Furguson Rookie

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    The American Dream is simply opportunity not entitlement. Those are the waters that have been clouded. My wife and I both went to school, paid our dues working crappy jobs and eventually we both got good jobs that pay well and have good benefits/retirement plans. We also have only as many children as we can comfortably support.

    The only ones responsible for our successes or failures are ourselves.
  13. Turd Furguson

    Turd Furguson Rookie

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    You'd be amazed at how a little foresight can prevent most of these problems.


    Notice I said MOST. Obviously not all.
  14. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I agree. I think the problem is largely limited to young people, poor working people, people who have suffered misfortune (illness, theft, failed businesses, etc.), and people without foresight. The last group I'm least concerned about, but even there it's not unreasonable if someone wants to live in Boston even though a moderate condo costs $300k in a safe area, while they get something for less elsewhere. I agree completely with saving for the future, but you still have to live life during its prime.
  15. QuiGon

    QuiGon Banned

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    Wow. What a phenomenal insight that was. Next thing you'll be telling us that the rich are doing better than the poor. :rolleyes:
  16. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    This type of garble is exactly what I'm talking about BF. People simple are clueless when it comes to economics, the economy itself, and what promotes growth and opportunity, versus what shreds it.

    #1 - Your rich friends are doing well.

    Well no sh!t. How shocking. People who have more money, have more disposable cash, and are thus able to invest money, or afford more expensive things, than those living on a middle class wage. This is economics 101. What socialists want to do, is penalize successful people for being smart, hard working, or risk taking, so as to redistirbute such cash to those who are whining about a "rigged game". Such people fail to understand that such policies retard growth and investment. It was Alexander Hamilton who said that "money is best kept in the hands of people who know how to invest it".

    #2 Technology jobs.

    Um, Taxachusetts is one of the most expensive states to do business in. Why? Cuz it's run like a socialist state with high taxes, massive entitlements, and an overregulated system. PArt of the reason why jobs are paying less is because the labor market is flooded with techs, as .com bubbles folded up shop, and other companies left to work in more business friendly environments. One of these people is a friend of mine who worked for Lucent in the 90's, and moved to Cincinnatti when the market turned to sh!t and most companies moved out.

    #3 Taxes

    Charlie Rangel is that you?

    #4 Buying a house.

    Do you even have a remote clue as to what the housing market is doing right now? Also, WTF does anyone, especially "my rich friend" buying a house for whatever many million actually mean? The fact of the matter is that the house in question was probably on the market at $5 million before it found a seller for $2.7 or $3 million. That some people have money is utterly irrelevent to what we're talking about in this thread, which is the American dream and what the problem is. If anything, the fact that someone can buy a $3 million home probably shows that the dream is still there if you're motivated enough to shoot for it.

    #5 Trades and being slow

    This is a field I am directly involved in, as my dad has a masonry business which I ran for 5 or 6 years. The fact of the matter is that as the housing market goes, so goes trades. When the market is good, there's new construction, home renovations, and improvements taking place that spur activity. The fact of the matter is that home prices in this region have been over inflated for so long now, that not only have projects and renovations slowed over the last couple of years, but now, with a high number of defaults, and more interest only up for permanent financing in the next 6-12 months, it's not going to get better. Economies are cyclical, and this region was overdue for a slowdown. If anything, this are specifically is going to be ripe with opportunity. Any moron who was smart enough to rent for the last 4-5 years as opposed to buy, and bought a '98 Accord instead of a 2007 Lexus, will be able to buy a home at a very affordable price. Of course that takes discipline and sacrafice, which is much harder than whining about a rigged game.

    Again, this doesn't even take into consideration the sag illegals have on teh middle class. Appologists NEVER want to discuss that.
  17. BelichickFan

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    #24 Jersey

    It's all choices Patters. I have a nice, big house that I paid about $200K for (not that long ago). Why ? Because I live in a stupid little small town. If you don't like the prices in big cities, DON'T LIVE IN ONE. Would I prefer to have my current standard of living while living in Boston ? You bet your ass I would. But I couldn't so I don't. It's all about compromises and don't come crying to me if I can be part of the "investor class" while someone who makes the money I do can't be because they choose a different standard of living.
  18. BelichickFan

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    #24 Jersey

    Yeah that quote was the single most ridiculous statement Patters has ever made - and there was lots of competition. It clearly points out his socialist/communist view that everyone should be doing the same.
  19. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    They are struggling because they are STUPID mostly. Granted, there certainly are those who are in a difficult spot, but the vast majority of those who fall under the outline of the article in question, are simply stupid, lazy, or excusists. I wore Hand me downs when I was a kid. Try doing that these days. Ain't happening.
  20. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    I live in Chelsea in a 700 sq/ft shed. Why? Cuz it was both within my means, and the wisest choice I could make moving forward. I didn't buy a $400k home in a suburb which I couldn't afford, and I didn't waste money on a brand new car, or Prada shirts like some of my friends did. Now, when the market bottoms out next year, I'll be able to borrow against my home and invest in a multifamily. Then, in say 5 or 6 years, I'll be able to sell my house I'm in now, and buy something better. Why can I do this? Cuz I used my brains. :D

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