The American Dream – A Lost Myth
During the State of the Union address, President Obama made the following statement, “We are true to our creed when a little girl born in the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American. She is free and she is equal. Not just in the eyes of God, but also in our own.”
Not to be too cynical of our president, but how many of us felt embarrassed by this statement because we knew it was false?
How does a family condemned to working two 40 hour a week jobs at minimum wage afford to send their kids to college? And if the family is doing slightly better than minimum wage, they might be able to borrow the money to send their kids to school, but will be forever paying back student loans.
The stark reality is the land of opportunity doesn’t exist and when our President claims that we are this great nation, deep in our hearts it doesn’t ring true.
From my experience in the field of psyche, we humans will cling to myth versus reality when our living situation involves pain. Hearing the President’s words might allow some to hope for the American Dream, yet for others, the reality of their situation is clear and their “new normal” is a system that benefits the few and enslaves the many.
In an interview by Bill Moyers of economist Richard Wolff, they discuss the disparity in economic equality and the need for fair wages. As the two discuss the U.S. economy, Mr. Wolff says the following about his field of economics in our universities, “The job of economics, to be blunt but honest, is to rationalize, justify, and celebrate the system. To develop abstract theories of how economics works to make it all like it’s a stable, equilibrium that meets people’s needs in an optimal way.”
However, “If you want to learn about how things operate in the real world, then you need to go over to the college of business and get a degree. So, we have economic theory of how capitalism should work, and then we see how it operates in the real world.”
Mr Wolff is the author of Capitalism Hits the Fan and has studied economics and democracy for 25 years.
While Mr. Wolff doesn’t think Banksters should be jailed for their involvement in crashing the worlds markets, he is quick to scold them for their practices during the bank bail outs:
And it’s a wonderful vignette in which the very government pouring money to salvage these private capitalist institutions is discovering its own revenue from them being undone by their evasion of the regulations about income tax by moving to Cayman Islands where the corporate tax is zero instead of paying their corporate tax in New York or wherever they’re based.
It would seem the rich get richer by playing from a different set of rules then others.
When operating within an unfair economic system, we the people could always rely on our democracy or our political institution to keep the elite from getting too powerful. However, our political system has been bought up by the elite so we now have our politicians serving the powerful versus keeping them in check.
It goes without saying, while this has been evolving over the last 30-40 years, we are now at a place where citizens are getting frustrated because the pursuit of the American Dream burst in 2007, and there has been no meaningful discussion by our political and business leaders. Some economists still want to declare it a recession, or part of a normal business cycle. In reality, it was the crash of the Great American Dream.
The wages no longer supported the American Dream so we borrowed money to purchase the cars, accessories, houses, boats, college, etc. The banks were all to willing to lend us the money to keep our economy moving, but then our bubble burst.
We’re still waiting to awake from this bad dream as we somehow expect the business cycle will reverse and we’ll return to the great days of of years past when the middle class flourished. The stark reality of our situation – those days are gone.
Our leaders in both the public and private sectors have made no attempt to resolve our systemic failures. In fact, many are using their time to secure policies that only further solidify their wealth and position in society.
What will it take to change their mind?
According to Mr. Wolff,
There is a democratic pulse. And I put a lot of stock in the hope that if this is explained, if the conditions are presented, that the American people can and will find ways to push for the kinds of changes that can get us out of this dilemma. Even if the political leaders who’ve inherited this situation seem stymied and unable to do so.
Enjoy the video interview. We’ll have a follow up story in a couple of weeks when Mr. Wolff is brought back to discuss some solutions to the lost myth of the American Dream: