Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The American Dream, Hijacked

It's not often these days that we focus on a topic two days in a row. However, with a topic as important as inequality, we didn't think we could do any less.

It's not an exaggeration when we say poverty, brought on by inequality, is one of the single most damaging things Americans are doing to each other, and our nation. To say the kind of poverty that steals stable retirement from older Americans, home ownership from middle-aged Americans, and the entire future of America from our young is a monster is actually understating things a bit.

In fact, according to the results of a decades old study, first written about earlier this month in the Philadelphia Enquirer, children born into severe poverty actually fare worse than babies born to crack-addicted mothers.

That's right - poverty is a worse monster than crack.

That monster, right now, is destroying the American dream, as we pointed out in our commentary Monday, and as President Obama is planning to highlight multiple times a week, every week, for the near-term future.

Even in the face of both the Associated Press study, and the Philadelphia study, there are still those people who will insist such a monster is just a figment of one's imagination, a nightmare that will affect somebody else over the next few years. Many Americans, however, already acknowledge that inequality-based poverty is a waking nightmare.

According to the Pew Research Center, one third of Americans now say they're no longer part of the middle class - they see themselves in the lower economic classes in America, and they don't see that changing anytime soon.

Sadly, a Harvard study, featured in the New York Times online last week, confirms what all of the other studies have said. It's not just your own ability or motivation that determines if you or your child (or your grandchild) can grow up to be successful, healthy, and prosperous anymore. Where you and your children were born - both as a matter of geography and as a matter of economics - determines your access to opportunity and success more than any other single factor.

When the 400 richest people in America are now wealthier than the bottom 60% of the rest of the country, this is a nation out of balance.

It's not a wonder, then, that a growing movement of America's fast food workers, in order to fight for a living wage for a fair day's work, is ending up in one-day strikes, at locations across the nation. For people willing to work two and sometimes three jobs, doing the kinds of work most Americans might find beneath them, it shouldn't surprise anyone that they're angry. Inequality in America right now, to them, means that no matter how hard they try, it's not currently possible for most of them to  have the opportunity to improve their lot in life.

Anyone who knows their history can tell you - this kind of nightmare often leads to an even more grotesque vision of horrors, as the aristocracy found when the people rose up in the days of the French Revolution.

Let's hope Americans wake up sooner, rather than later, because right now, the American dream is only a dream for most, while reality is a nightmarish monster.

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