Is The American Dream Dead?

dreamToday more Americans feel that the American Dream is out of reach. Those are the findings of a recent New York Times poll conducted earlier this month and recapped in a December 10, 2014 article, Many Feel the American Dream Is Out of Reach, Poll Shows

dbpix-poll-gfx-blog480The poll indicates that the public is now more pessimistic than even during 2008/2009, the height of the Recession. Specifically, the concept of “working hard and getting rich” is an idea that only 64% of Americans believed in today compared to 72% in early 2009, when we were in the midst of an economic meltdown just a ½ step short of a major Depression.

What’s interesting to me is that the economy is far stronger than 5-6 years ago—unemployment is down, financial markets are stronger, and our country has not fallen into an economic black hole. So why are we still in a funk? A funk that’s deeper than when we had every reason to have really worry about our nation’s future.

There are a few reasons:

1. Fear
While we are doing better, I think we worry more about what’s around the corner.

2. Lack of Trust
A subject of last week’s Struming about trust, we trust no institution and no one. One of the findings in the survey is that more people think the game is “rigged” as the poll showed that almost half (45%) of respondents felt the system was unfair and did not really give everyone an opportunity to succeed.

3. Our bubble has been burst
9/11 burst our falsely held belief in our domestic security, and the calamity of 2008/2009 may have made us wiser to the reality that our economic “recovery” may still be tenuous.

4. Baby Boomers are worried about the future of the children and grandchildren. They are also worried about their forthcoming retirement
We have lived with the belief that each succeeding generation would “do better” than the next. That belief is no longer widespread and there are good reasons to believe that today’s Millennials may not fare as well as the generations before them.

5. Insecurity
Technology has come with the fear that our personal financial information could easily be stolen.

The bottom line is that maybe the belief in the “American Dream” was inflated all along, and that the system really never was totally fair. Of course those of means have an advantage. But “rags to riches” stories are powerful and motivating, and the system does not prevent those of modest means from succeeding in the future. Perhaps it’s just that we now fully realize how difficult a climb it is.

What do you think?

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