Friday, September 26, 2014

A New Deal is needed to restore the American Dream

Above: WPA workers putting a new roof on a building in Baltimore. New Deal policymakers were interested in putting America back to work and improving the nation's infrastructure. Most of our policymakers today are concerned with pleasing corporate executives & billionaires who, in turn, are concerned with outsourcing jobs, downsizing workforces, and sending debt collectors after the workers they lay off. Maybe this is why most people think that the American Dream is dead. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives

According to a recent survey, "just 4 in 10 Americans say that the American Dream—the idea that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead—still holds true today." And, "A majority of survey respondents supported raising the minimum wage, increasing the tax rate on Americans earning more than $250,000 a year; requiring companies to provide all full-time employees with paid sick days; and doing more to reduce the gap between the rich and poor." (See "Broken Dreams: Amidst Economic Insecurity, Americans Can't Get Ahead")

It's easy to understand why the majority of Americans think working hard is not the key to improving one's quality of life. For example, wages have been stagnant even as worker productivity has increased (the wealthy have been pocketing all the economic gains). The reality of today's America is that many workers are working harder and harder for stagnant or lower wages, and for reduced or non-existent benefits. Their corporate overlords, however, are drinking wine by the pool and watching their investment income rise higher and higher--and then unleashing debt collectors and corporate attorneys to prey upon those who were destroyed by the recession and/or cannot find a decent-paying job in today's pathetic labor market.

Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said, "The American dream has become a myth...The belief in the American dream is not supported by the data." It would seem that the majority of Americans know this, perhaps more through experience than data. But until more Americans begin voting for politicians who support New Deal policies and principles, the destruction of the American Dream is likely to continue.

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