The final chapter of America's Promise, a high-school textbook on American history, ends with a rallying cry to national mythology. "The history of the United States is one of challenges faced, problems resolved, and crises overcome," it states. "Throughout their history Americans have remained an optimistic people, carrying this optimism into the new century. The full promise of America has yet to be realised. This is the real promise of America; the ability to dream of a better world to come."
Such are the assumptions beamed from the torch of Lady Liberty, coursing through the veins of the nation's political culture and imbibed with mothers' milk. Their nation, many will tell you, is not just a land mass but an ideal – a shining city on the hill beckoning a bright new tomorrow and a dazzling dawn for all those who want it badly enough. Such devout optimism, even (and at times particularly) in the midst of adversity makes America, in equal parts, both exciting and delusional. According to Gallup, since 1977 people have consistently believed their financial situation will improve next year even when previous years have consistently been worse.
But when President Barack Obama was planning his run for a second term his pollsters noticed a profound shift in the national mood. The optimism was largely gone – and with it both the excitement and the delusion. The time-honoured rhetorical appeals to a life of relentless progress, upward mobility and personal reinvention didn't work the way they used to.
~ from The American Dream Has Become a Burden for Most by Gary Younge ~
And why has the dream come crashing down? Younge sums it up in his last paragraph.
The self-proclaimed leader of the free world is turning into a low-wage economy with a class system more rigid than most and a middle class that wavers between poverty and precariousness. More than half the people using the food bank in Larimer County, Colorado, that I visited last year were working. More than one in four families in New York's homeless shelters includes at least one working adult. In the absence of a living wage and an ethical pay structure, the work ethic, on which the American dream is founded, doesn't work.
Thomas Gaist boils down for us the hard figures.
A US Census Bureau report released [last] Tuesday, entitled “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012,” makes a mockery of President Barack Obama’s claims to be restoring “security and opportunity for the middle class” in the wake of the 2008 financial breakdown.
The report provides a snapshot of a society in immense crisis. Poverty is at a near-generation high of 15 percent, close to the high point since the 1965 War on Poverty, the 15.2 percent rate reached in 1983. According to Tuesday’s report, 46.5 million Americans, including 9.5 million families, live in poverty.
Some 20.4 million people live on an income less than 50 percent of the official poverty line, 7.1 million of these being children under 18. More than 48 million remain without health insurance.
More than 31 percent of the population experienced some period of impoverishment during the years 2009-2011. Median household income, at $51,017, was slightly lower than in 2011, and down by 8.3 percent from 2007. The number of people 65 and older living in poverty increased from 3.6 million to 3.9 million between 2011 and 2012.
Despite more than four years of so-called “recovery,” American society remains plagued by mass deprivation and entrenched poverty. The “recovery” under Obama is limited to the wealthy and the super-rich, who have recovered all of the losses they suffered in the immediate aftermath of the Wall Street crash of September 2008 and grown richer than they were before the financial crisis. Social inequality has deepened as a result of policies designed to further redistribute wealth from the bottom of society to the top.
The American Dream now lives on ONLY for a select few. This privileged minority rails against handouts and programs for the unwashed masses while, at the same time, they demanded ever more handouts for themselves. What's worse, they have all but abandoned the rhetoric of a trickle down economy. They no longer pretend to care about the community as a whole -- it is all about them and how much more they can get their greedy hands on.