The going, going, gone American Dream

If Joseph Stiglitz is correct, the chance of achieving a common America Dream is quickly fading for most people in the United States.

What is that “American Dream” anyway?

PBS.org’s Bill Moyers Journal quoted James Truslow Adams, who wrote of the American Dream in 1931, saying the American dream was: “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement…”

However, after founding the US in 1776, the American Dream meant something else to most people. Back then, the American Dream was linked to the migration West toward the Pacific as people searched for some sort of paradise (the grass is greener on the other side of the hill mentality).

In fact, the American Dream has never had just one meaning. To most immigrants coming to the United States, the American Dream means coming to a country free of despotism and burdensome taxes without a hierarchical or aristocratic society that determines the glass ceiling that stops most people from improving status and lifestyles.

Back to the man that says the American Dream is dead—at least the most common 20th century American Dream.

Aaron Task, writing for the Daily Ticker, reports, “Columbia Professor and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz … reaches some startling conclusions, including that America is “no longer the land of opportunity” and “the ‘American dream’ is a myth…”

“In the last 30 years,” Stiglitz says, “the share of national income held by the top 1% of Americans has doubled; for to the top 0.1%, their share has tripled, he reports. Meanwhile, median incomes for American workers have stagnated…” while “…just 8% of students at America’s elite universities come from households in the bottom 50% of income…”

Importantly, Stiglitz believes inequality of wealth and opportunity are hurting the overall economy, by limiting competition, promoting cronyism and keeping those at the bottom from reaching their potential…”

How many common working class Americans do you know of that worked hard to achieve his or her American Dream? And I’m not talking about the Paris Hilton’s of the world that inherited great wealth.

S. M. Miller, From Rich to Richer, says, “Half of those on the Forbes 400 list started their economic careers by inheriting businesses or substantial wealth…only three out of ten on the Forbes list can be regarded as self-starters whose parents did not have great wealth or own a business with more than a few employees.”  Source: Born on Third Base

This means that 120 of more than 310,000,000 Americans achieved the American Dream of success leading to great wealth (those are very stiff odds). I don’t know about you, but I do not know any of those people personally.

Instead, according to Credit Cards.com, in 2008, there were 176.8 million credit cardholders in the US and today, the average credit card debt per household with credit card debt is $15,799. In November 2011, USA Today reported that total student loans outstanding will exceed $1 trillion for the first time. CNBC says short term loans is about $40 billion; small business loans $68 billion; farm loans are $114.2 billion; auto loan debt is $313.8 billion; tax debt owed to IRS is $345 billion; revolving home equity credit is $577.8 billion; revolving consumer credit outstanding is almost $1 trillion, and residential mortgage debt outstanding is $14.64 trillion (and this does not include the national federal debt).

How long do you think the debt ridden US will be able to hold onto that borrowed American Dream?

Discover The True Value of American Idol where one of about 60,000 will win first place and achieve his or her American Dream.

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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