The Death of The American Dream

This economy is so frightening!  Nearly all of us are affected in some way by the situation in this country, and it is rarely in a good way.

Last night I had an eye-opening conversation with a young mother.  She works in day care, and is currently job hunting.  I naively thought that this was one field that would not bear the brunt of a sluggish economy, but I was wrong.  When a two-parent household has one party laid off, the children no longer need day care.  When both are still working, but money gets tighter, one of them will switch to nights, thus negating the need for day care.  This woman must find a job where she is allowed to take her kids to work with her when school is out, because on her salary, she cannot afford day care for them.

This appears to be a true barometer of the situation, and as mentioned, one I had never considered.

I am aghast at the job market, or lack thereof. The Bush administration can spout figures about new jobs created, etc., but as always, statistics are made to be manipulated.  Every wage earner who loses a one hundred thousand a year job may have to take two jobs to pay his bills. A job created!  People who once earned a decent wage and had great benefits may now need a second job to afford insurance. Another new job!

More and more companies are reducing their staff to part-time positions, especially in retail.  Fewer full-timers means fewer benefits.  To cover a 40 hour shift, there may be 2 or even 3 employees where there was once only one. More jobs! When WalMart comes to town, they hire 300 people, and brag of jobs created. No mention that they are menial, low-paying, un-benefitted jobs.

I think this country is in deep shit, bluntly put.  The divide between the wealthy and everyone else is huge, and getting larger all the time.  In No. America in 2006, there were 3 million millionaires, and there were 38,400 people with a value over 30 million dollars.

Yet the median income is somewhere around $46,000.  So it takes a whole lot of poor people to counteract those super-rich ones.  In 2005, there were 36.5 MILLION people in the US alone below the poverty level. It is also important to note that the poverty thresholds are ridiculously low.  At present, a single person must earn less than $10,400 to be considered “poor”.  So the folks making $11,000 a year are not in the ranks of the poor. They don’t count.  Try telling them that.  Try renting an apartment in New England on double that, and you’re in trouble.  If we were to calculate those living below a “decent living wage” scale, the numbers would be monumentally higher.

All of these statistics may bore you, but this is the most important issue we are facing in our society. If you remember world history, most revolutions take place because the poor uprise against the rich.  In the French Revolution, the nobles were beheaded.  Can you see that kind of anger brewing in this country? I can.

I am a very fortunate, middle class woman, and yet I am now very close to living on the edge.  I have a decent-paying job, and own a home, but my husband lost his job last fall, and is now working part-time at not much above minimum wage.  We now need all of our money to pay for the basics.  That is not a great feeling while we are so close to our “golden years”.

I am afraid.  Not only for myself, but for all of us baby boomers who are watching our investments dwindle, while the prices at the supermarket rise, and the cost of heating our home becomes prohibitive.  And, yes, I am afraid for myself as well. I am not comfortable facing the unknown.  I worry about the potential for violence in our cities and the loss of the comfortable life we have enjoyed.

For many Americans, the American Dream has died.


Tags: , , , , ,

19 Responses to “The Death of The American Dream”

  1. kmcdade Says:

    My husband just logged on and announced that the U.S. lost 51,000 jobs in July.

  2. herechilln Says:

    I’m right there with you.
    I was considered upper middle class when my husband made what he did before we had children. I became middle class after having children. After the kids went to school, I became employed. Once again, we were living & sitting pretty well. Then, I lost my job. The company closed it doors. We were down to one income. I still had children, only now they were teenagers. Very hungry teenagers. And now, we were (and still are) slightly above the poverty level for a family of our size.
    My how times have changed.
    Speaking of change, my husband also switched companies about 5 years ago. In the process he took a dollar an hour pay cut. He did it to be closer to home. Closer puts him about 50 miles from home, compared to the 75 he was driving each way, each day. It shaved about 150 miles each week from both our gas bill and his drive time. What was nice at the time doesn’t seem so good now. I’m still glad for gas reasons that he did it, but that dollar an hour difference still would be $8.00 a day more. Even at 15 mpg, that amounts to an extra 4 bucks (give or take) a day after gas. That’s $20.00 each week I could really use now.
    I have no debt (thanks to the good years) but I can’t pay my mortgage, utilities and feed my family each month. It has become a trade off. I am almost out of ‘buy myself time’ opportunities. There are no jobs here, and I will most likely be losing some thing soon. Probably the cable. Honestly, without a few wonderful people, it would already be gone.
    (if you’re reading this, thanks again, J.)

    I completely agree that everything has to change.
    I’m concerned that when that happens, it could very easily be due to civil uprising. I’m concerned what repercussions will come of that.
    I’m concerned where we will be if that happens.
    Sadly, I’m equally concerned where we will be if if doesn’t.

    This is a scary world that we are living in.

  3. jonjonjon Says:

    Mom, I couldn’t agree with you more!!! When are we as a nation going to rise up and take care of the poor. As you know for the last two years or so I’ve been exploring my faith and trying to answer the questions we all have. The way we, and in “we” I mean our government, treat the poor is sickening. Even my republican wife agrees!!!

    “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mathew 19: 21 NIV

  4. jojovtx1800 Says:

    I agree wholly in this, and my normally optimistic self is very concerned about the future. We have enemies that hate us, and are capable of causing great harm. We have internal strive all through the country, and in our government, problems that did not occur over night, and will not simply vanish with a new administration. I am afraid for my family, and what the future holds. I am stocking up on ammunition before it becomes unavailable.
    It is highly likely that we are in the end times.

  5. jojovtx1800 Says:

    Sorry, that should say strife, I can spell, really.

  6. Nancy Spivey Says:

    I am so glad you all chimed in! I was starting to think I was the only one who saw, and doubting my own eyes.

  7. clare stella Says:

    i agree with you. as you know, i am a die-hard democrat and hate both of the bushes especially the younger one. as far as i am concerned, he has basically destroyed our country and its reputation. everybody hates americans. what a sad state of affairs.
    lately i have been reading a lot of books about iraq and iran and other war torn countries. it makes me grateful for what we have here. i have to think about that sometimes or i would go crazy. granted the cheese i like (those rectangular blocks of kraft) used to be 2 for $3.00 on sale. now they are $2.49 each if i’m lucky, sometimes $3.00 each (in the matter of a year or two). boursin cheese is $8.00 for about 6 oz. and i love boursin cheese.
    of course i don’t buy boursin and in fact, don’t buy the kraft stuff anymore either.
    as long as i can hang on to my home, i will give up everything else – cable, having my hair cut. i long ago gave up movies, going out to dinner, traveling anywhere.
    i am grateful that we live in a pretty safe world. at least right now we don’t have to worry about suicide bombers. we have plumbing that works, kids that aren’t forced into the armed forces, and fresh air and water. i am grateful each day.
    i do not know how it will be for my granddaughter. i do fear a revolution or someone bombing us. i fear that my granddaughter may not be able to go to college if she wants to. i am scared of the crime and violence in our nation that continues to rise even as people in the NRA complain that they don’t want laws against AK-47 automatic assault rifles. we sure need those for target shooting. i feel afraid when i have to walk to my car at night and have to ask someone to watch me because i’m afraid that a brockton drug addicted person will hurt me. (take my money, just don’t hurt me.)
    apparently a majority of people want men like ronald reagan and the george bushes in office. not me.
    there is no middle class anymore. you either have lots of money or you are struggling. all the people i know are 3 mortgage payments away from foreclosure. all the young couples i know both have to work probably forever.
    at 62, i can’t retire. probably not at 65. maybe 70 if i make it.
    a lot of my friends are in their 60’s and have to work full time. it’s that or lose their homes. god forbid if we get really sick. just shoot me quick.
    you know, i can remember a time when there were virtually no homeless people…can you? long before the republicans took over for sure.
    well, tomorrow, saturday is a work day for me. i’m going to take care of kids who have problems with drugs. some of their parents are addicts too. some of them have parents who were never home – not because they didn’t want to be but because they both had to work to make ends meet. heroin comes from afghanistan. our soldiers die there and our kids die here. who lets the heroin through??
    it’s a mess but i have to keep my eye on the good – or at least what i can find. i have a job to go to tomorrow. i have a home but no cheese. and i never, ever voted for any reagan or bush and never, ever will.
    i’m proud to be an american but wonder how many of my children’s children will feel that way. i wish john f. kennedy didn’t get assassinated. he was rich but believed in social justice – helping the poor, getting young folks to join the peace corps to help others in foreign lands (thus increasing the reputation of americans as good and caring people), and having a wife and children whom everyone could look at and say “I’m proud of my President and his family.” I look at George Bush and Laura, the stepford wife, and think “blecch.” The drunken daughters were real role models. I look at the elder George Bush and his dear iron-fisted white haired witch wife and think, “Good God, when was it last we had a President we could admire?”
    Off my podium and into bed. Tomorrow’s a work day.

  8. Nancy Spivey Says:

    Phew! You covered a lot of ground there, Clare! All true, and all sad. But you did make me laugh (“i have a home but no cheese.”), and that is always a good thing!

  9. Corina Says:

    Unfortunately, it looks like things will get worse before they get better so we all have to swallow hard and keep pinching our pennies.

    It’s very frustrating and terrifying. I’m with you there.

  10. jojovtx1800 Says:

    I feel sorry for people that rail against the NRA, and what it is trying to accomplish. They do much more to protect your rights than you think, and contrary to popular belief, assault rifles are responsible for less violence than the Brady bunch would have you believe. Most gun violence is committed by inner-city teens with stolen weapons, criminals who will continue to possess weapons long after Barack has disarmed all of the law abiding ones.
    There are no clear choices in the upcoming election, who ever gets elected better have a plan to get us through the next few years. Our enemies have hated us for years, the last few haven’t helped, simply pulling troops and leaving the area will not stop the hatred.

  11. Shawn W Says:

    Tonight a young couple showed up at my church. The nineteen-year-old, ten-week pregnant girl hadn’t eaten all day. Her soon to be husband had panhandled to feed them the day before, and all they ask for was enough money for half a tank of gas, so he could look for work.

    While I helped take care of them, my husband took home one of our members. He returned in tears about the way the young woman is living. He’s a pretty tough guy, so it must have been awful.

    We have problems in this county no one person could have caused. We’ve sat back on our fat butts and expected the government to fix things for too long. It’s time for us to put whatever time and money we have left, where our big mouths are and start making things better one hurting person at a time.

  12. Jackie Says:

    What can I say? When you’re right, you’re right. I’m not an alarmist, typically, but I have a bad feeling about all this. And then when Greenspan gave the interview, my heart sunk a little. Fear confirmed.

  13. nanis Says:

    Thank you all for responding. I enjoy reading different perspectives and different ideas for resolving the problems we face.

    Over the weekend, I did some reading on economists’ take on these issues, and they pretty much agree with us all. In a nutshell, the super-rich are running the show, the merely wealthy are on the bandwagon, and the rest of us are lagging behind. According to the data I read, the gap between the wealthy and the middle class has grown monumentally, while the gap between the poor and the middle class has shrunk. And for the first time in history (since we started tracking these things), the buying power, based on income vs. inflation, has actually decreased for most of us, while the income of the rich has grown monumentally.

    Some of the issues that appear to be to blame are the decreasing power of unions, tax cuts to the wealthy, and the elimination of tax on capital gains. And because the wealthy are the ones who benefit from these situations, and they are also the ones with all the power, it is unlikely to change anytime soon.

    According to the economists, the only way to really fix things is to make changes in POLICY. That is, the government must start passing laws which tax the wealthy proportionately, improve the status of workers, and focus on the creation of jobs which will pay a reasonable living wage.

    Do I see this happening? Not really. There are very few CEO’s, or senators, or even US representatives, who will buck the trend, taking tax dollars out of the pockets of their friends in high places. I fear that only some sort of revolution will force the issue, and right now, most Americans are too complacent to consider such an option.

  14. Jackie Says:

    And too beat down. We’re all too exhausted from trying to keep our heads above water.

    !Viva la revolucio……zzzzzzzzz.

  15. Shawn W Says:

    Didn’t David say something about beating the average American down until he/she would agree with almost anything in order to gain a little relief?

  16. herechilln Says:

    Shawn, sounds an awful lot like a few other countries around the globe.
    Ironically, in some of them, our country has gone in to protect their citizens freedoms.
    That’s awfully nice of us, isn’t it?
    Go figure.

  17. kmcdade Says:

    Holy cow, now I’m really depressed.

    Shawn is right — we need to be helping each other, face to face, person to person, right in our communities. Working toward policy changes is good too, but we have to learn to live as communities rather than individuals.

  18. pandemonic Says:

    We’re all close to the edge, even the comfortable ones.

  19. nanis Says:

    I know. It’s a vicious circle, too. We spend less because we’re worried, so sales are down in every area. Thus more layoffs, then we spend even less….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: