The Big Question: Is the American Dream still alive?

Bill Bishop, author and co-editor of The Daily Yonder, said:

Over the last 30 years, the middle has dropped out — and not just in politics.

The country has gotten increasingly unequal. Through the '50s and '60s, for example, communities were growing more alike in their levels of education. That began to change in the 1970s and the country has polarized educationally since.

The number of years Americans are expected to live is growing more unequal from place to place. Suicide rates are diverging from one community to another.

Our experiences — economically, politically, medically — are so vastly different now from one place to another that there isn't a single American Dream any more. We have less and less in common, including, I think, our expectations for what's possible.


Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:

It sure isn't obtainable now. It is incredible that we are holding an election with the economy facing near double-digit unemployment and neither party has a remotely credible plan to get the unemployment rate to more normal levels any time soon. The public has every right to be appalled by the failure of our political leadership.

Of course even if we did get back to more normal rates of unemployment we still have the problem that most people were not getting their share of the gains from growth even before the downturn. If we continue on a path where most of the gains from growth go the richest 10 percent, where health care costs rise out of control and we cut back on programs like Medicare and Social Security, then relatively few people will be living anything that could be called an "American Dream."


Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Independent Women's Forum, said:
 
The American Dream certainly should still be attainable for all citizens. Unfortunately, the government has put up some pretty significant barriers to achieving the dream.  
 
First, a quality education is the key to upward mobility, and our current public K-12 education system leaves too many students unprepared to participate in the modern economy. This has to change in order to make the American Dream attainable for the next generation. It is imperative that policymakers start thinking outside the box and embracing more systemic, meaningful reforms. Everything must be on the table. Policymakers should focus on giving parents more power and more options for their children's education. This would force schools to respond and compete for students, greater efficiency and superior results would follow.
 
Poor public schools are the first government-created stumbling block on the road to the American Dream, but there are others. Most notably, achieving the American Dream requires gainful employment. Americans need educational opportunities that will allow them to compete in a 21st-century, global economy and an economy that grows so that other opportunities for progress are available. Right now, job opportunities don't exist for many Americans, and too many others are working in jobs that don't make full use of their skills.
 
Too-high taxes, burdensome regulation and tremendous uncertainty about the rules under which businesses will operate in January (let alone years down the road) make it difficult for businesses to plan and expand and for entrepreneurs to start up. The Independent Women's Forum is releasing an Agenda for Women which focuses on what the next Congress can do to rebuild the economy, create more job opportunities and encourage long-term growth and prosperity. You can read a description of the Agenda here.  In short, the government must contract so that the private sector can expand.
 
The American Dream can and will be attainable for the next generation once changes start being made in Washington.


Cheri Jacobus, Pundits Blog Contributor, said:

The American Dream is alive, but on life support.
 
High taxation, the deflated dollar, government regulations choking businesses and job creation, and the huge amount of national debt each child in America is born with, plus the high cost of a college education has made it increasingly less likely a generation will do as well as their parents did.  It takes more than a pile of "shovel ready" projects to sustain the Dream.
 

Bernie Quigley, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

Absolutely. The dance is just beginning.


Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:
Unfortunately, the American Dream is rapidly turning into a nightmare — and it's about to get worse.

The ongoing destruction of the dollar, due to inflationary bank-credit expansion, dooms the dreams of our children and ourselves. Due to government mismanagement of the economy, we are entering the Second Great Depression, and there isn't a whole lot we can do about it. Even if the government were to reverse its policies, suddenly, and get us back to a sound dollar, the effects of past actions are already in the queue. The necessary deflation that will cleanse the market of mal-investment is being avoided, but only temporarily — and each time we delay it its ultimate effects are multiplied. It's deflation now, or destruction later. Knowing our political class and its shortsightedness, it isn't hard to know which course they'll take.