I challenge you to search the phrase ‘The American Dream is Dead’ on any search engine. You will find a mind numbing 34 million results on Google alone. The links include articles, pictures, cartoons, extremist political rants, and all sorts of whining victimization. As I read CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post and other media outlets on the subject I hear Linda Ronstadt’s voice in my head singing “poor, poor pitiful me”. I have to ask: Is the dream really dead or are we becoming a nation of people who don’t get back up on the horse after a fall? Or worse, are we now a people who wouldn’t even mount a horse because of the risk?
Many articles and accompanying reader comments, posted by folks who don’t seem to know the difference between are and our, foretell the crash of our economy, our culture, our position in the world and the unavoidable chaos to follow. An article from this fatalistic genre, by a gazillionaire Internet investor, titled ‘The Pitchforks are Coming’ warns of the impending uprising from the disgruntled, hungry masses.
The author, a self-proclaimed free market capitalist, appears to warn his fellow oligarchs to have the G650 fueled and ready at a moment’s notice for a refugee flight to New Zealand. This guy is in the one percent of the one percent, by his own admission, and he’s worried that us middle and lower class American riff-raff, who don’t have elected officials on speed dial, will rise up and dispense some good ole social justice. He argues that raising the minimum wage will placate and temper us from our violent revolutionary ways.
Frankly, I don’t believe he and his billionaire buddies need to be worried. He is wrong though if he thinks a few extra dollars in a mini-mart, express oil-change, or fast-food paycheck is going to alleviate the growing mistrust of an establishment, increasingly disconnected from the interests and realities of everyday Americans. While our biggest, “too big to fail”, corporations avoid taxes by sneaking off to their new foreign HQs, our nation’s independent thinkers, tinkerers, risk takers, small business people, and oh by the way our biggest job creators, are left to pay the ever growing tab. Offering up cake crumbs like minimum wage increases, when wholesale reform is needed is not going to solve the problems of inequality or the erosion of the American middle class.
Once the envy of the world a few short decades ago, The American Middle-class is now 20% poorer than we were in 1984 according to a recent Washington Post Wonkblog.
At the same time, and probably not coincidently, the culture of entrepreneurship has been flagging here as well.
Maybe those 34 million posts on Google slamming the American Dream as impossible, irrelevant or only for the rich has eroded the self-confidence needed to start an entrepreneurial venture. Of course, you can believe the hype from website writers with shiny new Journalism degrees, Jonesing for internet clicks, or listen to a guy whose twenty year business pursuit is finally becoming reality. The American Dream is not dead or only for the rich and well connected. It is very much alive and well if you’re willing to keep reaching for it. The bruises on my backside from falling off that fucking horse hundreds of times proves just how it is done.