Friday, May 27, 2016

The American Dream

So how might we have arrived at this difficult juncture?  Note the change over time.

For generations, we've worked to make a place for everyone and to provide a way forward for every family to rise up and achieve the American Dream.  We've talked about it a lot.  What happened?

So when I was a kid, there was a class of folks that didn't really have a place in an otherwise viable culture.  For regular folks, the way forward and up was just a matter of hard work and time.  Savings and equity, skills and promotions, all those built up over time; slow but sure.  For some there at the bottom of the economic ladder, however, the door was closed from the start, and it has become progressively more difficult to escape over the years.

Today, inequality has returned to the horrific levels we last saw almost a century ago.

Is it racial?  Our early awareness of immobility and inequality was racially focused.  Blacks were paid less, hired less, offered less, promoted less, welcomed less.  Despite decades of simplistic explanation, there has always been more to the problem.  "It takes money to make money," we were told, and it turned out to be surprisingly true; if you aren't rich, you aren't welcome.

For the lower economic third of Americans, the collapse of marriage, the rise of divorce, the prevalence of single parenthood, and the increases in child poverty and deprivation, all point to a larger context,  and racial categorization is just one aspect of discrimination.  Disappointing news.  We thought we were fair minded and culturally noble.

The issue is dramatically less pronounced in Sweden, in Australia, even in Canada and Japan.  So what of the American Dream?  It is less accessible, a farther horizon than it used to be, and denied to many for no legitimate reason.  The dissatisfaction expressed by those of the bottom 90% is not acknowledged by the wealthy.  Those top 10% of wealthy Americans, by the way; they're living comfortably in isolation from the real world.  They spend none of their time or energy on things which 99.96% of humanity deal with all day, every day, for a lifetime.  And, they don't understand what they've become.

Time for change, perhaps.

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