We’ve all heard about it. We’ve seen the result of it. And it is the one thing that brings people from all over the world to the “promised land” figuratively speaking of course. But does it really exist or is it nothing more than the spectre of an over glamorized past that was once great? We’re of course as the title above states talking about the American Dream!
The American Dream has typically referred to the idea that anyone can come to America and be successful no matter their status upon entry. However, some people feel that the wealth gap has increased so much that the American Dream ceases to exist as we know it.
We don’t know if it’s over or if it’s simply evolving! We’ve provided you with 15 talking points and would love to hear your thoughts!
#15 The American Dream is Changing
After WWII, soldiers coming home from the war had their college paid for by the government thanks to the GI Bill. This created a nation of well-educated workers who were able to earn money for their families like never before. This also allowed for money for leisure activities, allowing stars like Elvis Presley to rise from poverty to stardom. When paired with the war-fueled booming economy the country saw widespread prosperity that resulted in a large middle class.
Technological advancements have changed that picture of relative financial equality in modern America. The highly educated have embraced knowledge and modern advancements that allow them to make obscene amounts of money. A weak economy and a labor force that is becoming less and less suited to the increasingly complex technology has brought up the question: can the average Joe still strike it big in the USA?
#14 The Youth Are Not Prepared
In America the majority of public high schools are so bad that their graduates do not possess the most basic of life skills. Kids learn math but don’t retain it, while never being taught about taxes, parenting skills, debt, credit cards, and the other pitfalls of young adults.
Would you believe that 3/4 of Americans between the ages 17 and 24 would not be eligible to join the military even if they wanted to? Either because of low physical health, lack of education, or a criminal record, these people could not earn a living as a soldier. These are all things that should be addressed, yet schools fail year after year without any real changes to the system.
Whether it means limiting union power so teachers are judged on merit instead of tenure or totally rearranging the power structures in failing schools, something needs to be done. Even those kids with the ambition to get out of a low income situation often cannot because they has been failed by a teacher soured by years in a flawed system. Until the youth realizes the amount of debt they are taking on by not getting a real education, the American Dream will never be truly alive.
#13 Are Taxes Weighing Us Down?
Every busboy, waiter, or movie theater attendant knows the crippling feeling of realizing you are taxed for the first time. It can make you feel like you are working for free at times and it certainly is a large chunk of a low level employee’s paycheck. Most of all, you feel like you have little to no say in how much they can take.
Well, that is the harsh reality. As social security and medicare become older and older as programs, inefficiencies mean that the tax burden is greater on each generation. And, with each generations seemingly working less and less it is unclear where the money will come from down the road.
Ideally the government should issue reforms to the welfare programs, cutting down the participants to make the programs more sustainable. They have done the opposite though, as eligibility has become easier and fraud more rampant as the programs balloon. Tax increases will rise as the unsound proposed solution to the lack of cash, and the young generation will continue to be weighed down as a result.
#12 A Nation Divided
When did everyone become so enamored with percentages? In the last presidential election it was Mitt Romney’s comment that 47% of the nation are never going to change their minds was crippling.
However, these party lines show underlying rifts between the haves and the have nots. Instead of a country where ambition is embraced by all and people take accountability for their funds, the people without money tend to bemoan those who do. The Occupy Wall Street movement was based on the wealthiest 1% of the country holding most of the power.
While the gaps in wealth are alarming, it is more a sign of fruitless programs and a failing educational system for those who most need it. These programs keep the impoverished from advancing by keeping them from amounting actual wealth. We need to look at just how big the gap is and how difficult it is to overcome today.
#11 Why The Divide?
A study before the recent financial crisis showed that the 1% had salaries that averaged 30 times higher than the average American. This is not a gap that has been reduced by the economic policies since 2004. The Federal Reserve has put policies in place that raise the price of stocks, assets owned primarily by the wealthy.
The problem with this is that by improving the financial situations of the stock owners you are not helping America as a whole. Stocks do not provide jobs, they are just bought and traded mostly on speculation. When the stock market takes a large loss, as it did recently, all of that Federal spending was wasted.
All the while, policies that exacerbate social programs takes more people out of the work force to government dependency. So, instead of investing in companies who provide more jobs the Fed spends money on the volatile stock market, which largely reflects jobs. It is like trying to put a band aid on a large head wound, and these policies are increasing the wealth gap.
#10 There Are More Spoiled Brats than Ever Before
When you think about the fact that America is responsible for 1/3 of the world’s billionaires, you might think the American Dream is alive and kicking. However, when you look closer at the numbers you see that money is being inherited more than earned. And this may be a sign that either the ability or will to rise through the ranks in America is nearly gone.
Almost 30% of the American billionaires did not earn their fortune on their own. Theses heirs and heiresses reap the plush life afforded by their relatives’ ambitions, and are simply children of American Dreamers. This rate is higher than two competing nations, Australia and the UK, whose wealthy have tended to be more self made.
So, are people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian signs that we don’t care about how the money is attained, just that one has it? Are people kept down by society’s structure or do they just lack the attention span to rise through a job to billionaire status?
#9 Why America Is Not an Entrepreneur’s Dreamland
America has long been considered the country where any down on his luck sad sack can right his ship and make a success out of himself. However, numbers show that America might not even be the land of prosperity for its own citizens, much less immigrants. Would you guess that Britain and Finland are much better countries for the poor to find success in?
Men who are born in the lowest 20% of the income bracket are considered impoverished by sociological standards. In America, people born in this range have a 42% likelihood of staying there for their entire lives. While 58% do get out, almost half are resigned to poverty from birth to death.
In England on 30% stay in this income shelf while Finland has only 28%. This suggests social mobility is much easier in these countries, but these countries also have fewer immigrants to account for than America. Either way, this is not a good sign for the American Dream.
#8 The System Discourages Advancement
The tax code is severely broken and needs major overhaul, this much is true. We know this when it makes more sense for a single mother to take a lesser paying job in order to make more money. This is not a typo or word error, she has to take a job that pays less to make more.
According to Gary Alexander, who served as Pennsylvania public welfare secretary, a woman would be smarter to take a job that pays $29,000 than one that pays $69,000. This is because she would pay practically no taxes and would receive $28,327 in government benefits for a total income of $57,327. If she took the higher paying job she would be taxed $11,995 for a total of $57,005.
The fact that the government is willing to take so much from a single mother’s taxes while giving another mother her own salary in benefits makes no sense. It promotes underachievement amongst women and directly harms unmarried women.
#7 It is Easier to Be Lazy
Modern technology has made it easy to work from home or make careers in ways we our ancestors would never have thought possible. The concept of writing from home or selling items on eBay to support oneself seems cushy compared to a physical laborer in the fifties. So naturally we have become a less physically fit and ambitious people.
Social Security payments are being made at earlier ages and higher rates than ever before, and it is not because we are getting sicker as a nation. With modern medicine we have found ways to extend out lifetimes and life expectancy has risen as a result.
So what does it say that we are taking our old age payments at younger ages while knowing we are living longer than the previous generation? It shows it is easier to get classified as a recipient and that people see less shame in receiving payments. Minor aches and pains now become career ending when the option is being paid to not work, and this attitude has killed national ambition.
#6 Our Age Structure Is not Promising
When a country has too many old people who need to be supported by the youth it is often a sign of impending financial collapse. Frankly, old people get sick alot and cost the most to keep healthy, and do not give much back in terms of economics. America’s federal spending shows daunting signs of the elderly taking up large chunks of spending.
While roughly 40% of federal spending in the forms of Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs goes to the elderly, the youth receive about 10%. This makes sense because the youth are healthier and therefore cost less, but the reality shows need for youth funding. Poverty rates are roughly double for youth than for the elderly.
How can a country spend so much taking care of the dying while neglecting the ones who need financial help the most and represent the nation’s future? The payments to keep the last generation of the sick and old alive will need to come from today’s youth, so to let them toil in poverty will spell huge national crises down the road.
#5 It is a Class Thing
We have talked about some of the reasons why the poor or single mothers may struggle to get out of poverty, and inadequate education is a large part of the problem. To understand just how much of a disadvantage poor children are at from the get-go you only need to see the comparisons in development to wealthy children. The differences are astonishing and they imply that wealth divisions in America are getting larger and less navigable.
In studying ages 4 to 5, it was shown that children from wealthier homes are on average 21 months ahead of the poorer children developmentally. This shows less exposure to stimuli that move learning along amongst poor people, while wealthier people clearly have access to better education. If this is the case, it stands to reason that year after year the gap will continue to increase as wealthier people gain more powerful tools to make their children smarter.
The amount of 15 year olds who cannot read in America is 17.6 percent compared to 10.3 percent in Canada. Because America has greater wealth, the differences between rich and poor are more glaring in this country. As a result the poor become more and more alienated and dependent on government help and the gap only increases.
#4 Kids Are Feeling the Pain
We are painfully aware of the difficulties in trying to find employment these days. Employers are reluctant especially to hire youthful workers because they see them as less responsible and as higher risks, as adults have always viewed the youth. The problem is that employee costs are at an all-time high and employors are taking less and less of these risks.
With employers being charged larger amounts in health care costs to take on employees and because only full time employees are subject to this many workers hours are being limited to avoid the health charge. For this reason, kids are not able to get many full time jobs that have been available in the past.
This has a crippling effect on youth ambition as a whole, as kids feel soured after turning in hundreds of applications with no more than a part time offer. It can be enough to make one turn to the welfare system as a little start up cash, and this can turn into abuse and dependency. If it all sounds like a drug, that is because money has the same effect as drugs on most people we know.
#3 Has Corruption Taken Over?
The American Dream has always been hailed as a noble idea, one that is synonymous with hard work. But does the American Dream of becoming rich on behalf of the country count if it was acquired through wrongful means? Because it is clear that immigrants can still make it big in America, but it might not be in the way you’re imagining.
Recently an IRS scandal came to light that showed undocumented immigrants were able to file tax returns in spite of the fact they have no social security number. A glitch in the system allowed these tax cheats to pay no taxes while filing children who lived in Mexico on their returns. A special grant allowed them to receive thousands of dollars in refunds based off of these children.
Undocumented immigrants admitted to participating in this and acknowledged that the money helped them greatly. So, is the American Dream still real if it means duping our government and cheating taxpayers? You can decide for yourself, but we vote No.
#2 What Does Occupy Say?
The Occupy Wall Street Movement got a ton of media coverage and spread across the nation. No matter what city it popped up in, there was always a crowd of people and they were always angry about something. But about what, you ask?
Well, we still are not sure. One guy might tell you his tuition is too high and wants the “greedy” and “selfish” to pay for it. Another lady might tell you how corporations are ruining America, only to explain that she is receiving welfare checks and living it up as an early retiree. The movement was disjointed and it was more a forum for the poor and transient to voice their problems with the world than anything else.
And, unfortunately, its acceptance is a symbol that Americans have gone from ambitious and competitive to envious and jealous. It has become trendy to vilify the wealthy because they are…um…..rich? In spite of the fact many companies employ hundreds of people and keep the economy afloat they are torn down as greedy. When money becomes the symbol of greed and not the means to raising a family we know the Dream is dead.
#1 The American Dream Is Dead
The 2012 presidential election and the political division that has continued since convinces us that the American Dream is dead. Because, for the American Dream to be alive we believe there must be a unified national voice with a steadfast belief in free business that promotes economic mobility. However, the fact that so much of the nation despises the president and his policies means the country is torn over this issue.
While the wealthy want less taxes to have money for more employees and deals, much of the less fortunate population believes they have nothing but greed in mind. And this assumption of wrongdoing shows a disdain for the ideals of capitalism. This is a fair belief to have, but it goes directly against what the American Dream is.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the matter! So please let us know what you think by leaving us a comment below!