Obama and the American dream in reverse

September 24, 2010

“It’s like the American dream in reverse.” That’s how President Barack Obama, ten days after taking office last year, described the plight of Americans hit by the faltering economy. His catchy description fell short — the dream has turned into a nightmare for tens of millions.

So much so that an opinion poll this week showed that 43 percent of those surveyed thought that “the American Dream” is a thing of the past. It “once held true” but no longer does. Only half the country believes the dream “still exists,” according to the poll, commissioned by ABC News and Yahoo against a background of dismal statistics on growing poverty, inequality, unemployment, and Americans without health insurance.

Before turning to the gloomy numbers, a brief detour to the meaning of the phrase “the American Dream,” long a familiar part of the U.S. (and international) lexicon.  The survey defined it as “if you work hard, you get ahead.” That’s neat shorthand for the concept that the American social, economic and political system makes success possible for everyone.

More expansive definitions of the American Dream invariably feature home ownership, and there the dream went into reverse on a particularly large scale, with the subprime mortgage boom and subsequent housing bust. Last year alone, there were 2.8 million foreclosures — 7,700 a day — on homes whose owners could no longer afford their mortgages.

The statistic that best explains growing doubts over the achievability of the American Dream was released by the Census Bureau in mid-September. In 2009, the Bureau said, 3.8 million people joined the ranks of the poor by falling below the poverty line, defined by the government as an annual income of below $22,000 for a family of four.

In contrast, the net worth of the 400 richest Americans rose by a healthy eight percent in the year to August, according to a list by the business magazine Forbes published a week after the poverty figures. That perpetuated a rich-poor gap of proportions similar to the 1920s, before the Great Depression. For most of the past four decades, the annual incomes of the bottom 90 percent have changed relatively little while those of the top 1 percent have tripled.

In terms of equitable distribution of income and wealth, the U.S. is closer to Iran, Argentina or Mexico than to Canada or Germany. (That is according to the Gini index, a complex statistical measure of inequality named after Corrado Gini, the Italian economist who devised it in 1912.)


In this context, unflattering comparisons are inevitable. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the left-leaning website The Huffington Post, just published a book entitled Third World America. “It’s a jarring phrase, I know,” she says, “but if we don’t change course — and quickly — that could very well be our future.”

As things stand, she writes on her website, “the fix is in. The game is rigged. The dice are loaded. And it starts in Washington, where special interests run the show — and where lobbyists outnumber elected officials 26 to 1. Unfortunately, there are no lobbyists for the American Dream.”

The new census figures translate into the highest poverty rate since 1994, or one out of seven (43.6 million) ranked as poor. The annual census report covers both poverty and health insurance and on the latter, too, the figure provided reason to doubt the American dream. More than 4.4 million lost health insurance, usually along with their jobs, and the army of uninsured now numbers more than 50 million.

It would have been even worse, Obama said, without additional unemployment payments and other programmes providing tax relief and income support.

The data showed that the Great Recession hit people at the lowest income levels the hardest and even for those who kept their jobs, the statistics were bleak: earnings of working men fell by 4.1 percent and of working women by 2.8 percent. The minimum wage in the U.S. stands at $7.25 an hour, less than it was (adjusted for inflation) half a century ago.

For those on the lower ranks of the economic ladder it came as cold comfort that, technically, the recession ended more than a year ago. This is according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, which said in September that the recession began in December 2007, under the administration of President George W, Bush, and ended in June 2009, the longest downturn since World War II. The bureau measures a combination of macroeconomic indicators but not how people are affected personally.

Reaction to the poverty numbers has been relatively “muted” among the people’s representatives in Congress, as a perceptive article in the Washington Post noted. An explanation came from Deborah Weinstein, who heads the advocacy group Coalition on Human Needs and calls the increase in poverty a national emergency.

The problem of the poor is that they are not a powerful constituency. They don’t vote in great numbers and they don’t make contributions to re-election campaigns. Unlike the top 1 percent.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Social churn has been higher in Europe than in the US for some years.

The dream has been dead for all that time.

Reagan dealt the fatal blow, and no one has made a serious effort at resucitation.

Question is, when does America wake up and smell the coffee? Things could get ugly then.

Posted by Dafydd | Report as abusive

Oh, honestly.

As I have mentioned elsewhere on these pages, my late father once remarked that Americans tend to go to extremes on just about everything. The above article is further evidence of the perceptiveness of his remark.

Just as four years ago life was beautiful and everything was great and we were all immortal, now everything is awful and getting worse and we are all going off a cliff. Nobody saw the great recession coming back then, quite the contrary in fact, prosperity, it was believed, would last a long time. So why should anyone now believe gloomsters with their dire predictions three and fours out in time?

Give your heads a shake and try on some of that legendary American optimism. It has survived much worse.

Posted by Gotthardbahn | Report as abusive

“The problem of the poor is that they are not a powerful constituency. They don’t vote in great numbers and they don’t make contributions to re-election campaigns.”

The problem of the poor is the Democratic Party, which does not ask why the poor do no not vote for them, despite their rhetoric of social justice.

They don’t ask, I suggest, because they already know the answer: They no longer fool anyone as to who they represent (the capitalist class), any more than the Republican Party does (the vicious capitalist class), and their spineless behavior in office, over the course of a lifetime, leaves no room for hope.

Posted by forthetimebeing | Report as abusive

Good article.

What subsidies to the mortgage-housing sector brought was a creeping inflation in home prices that got many Americans to borrow too much to pay for the homes they live in, and finally – to the collapse of the mortgage-housing market, and the instant impoverishment of millions.

The American Dream can become a reality only if we ‘Get Real’ and stop playing the Welfare State game through subsidies to particular economic sectors and activities that are deemed to be “Socially Desirable”, mainly by the special interest groups that benefit the most from direct and indirect subsidies.

Posted by yr2009 | Report as abusive

Default mode: Officials pushing levers, have no idea what’s going on, or what to do about it.

WW 111 – We are all at war with our identity; moreover, we are in a box, by definition we’re partisan. How can we ever have a fruitful argument about something that’s part of our identity?? A worrisome string of words to be sure.

History is highly studied; it paints an undeniable and authentic picture, for all who screw around with a monetary usury, based system of scarcity. So, since we have clearly allowed money to become everything, we have allowed it to be come part of our identity, it is all we have ever known. This is a self inflicted, injustice. We are killing one another over money, the “Rule Of Law” is bought off, democracy is bought off. The work ethic, and a ”job for money” become a joke. But wait, there is much, much, more … Stuxnet malware. Make yourself aware of it along with it’s every broad implications of how we can destroy each other all in the name of money. If the plutocracy can use this technology, they will, after all it’s MONEY, before lives.

The world’s resources properly belong to all the inhabitants. YES or NO?? The evasive, hedging, answers come from those who still think they can win, like a twelve dollar gun hidden up the snot stained sleeve of a gangsters’ hoody.

No doubt, our absolute, refusal to get off the dime is going to cause a whole lot of hurt. We need a critical mass of people to get behind a move to an economy of abundance.

We have not even come close to our capabilities and strangely they relate back to our past. As Rovski pointed out, there are places on earth were people “will survive better when things get back to basics because they never went to far from basics in the first place.” Born into nature we are all, emergent, we are of the environment, we need to be out learning, exploring and caring for it. Instead we made a fatal error; we strayed far, far away from the basics. The 5 senses we were given are resource based economic tools. These same tools make us all scientist, watching for the evidence as it presents. It’s stackable information; comes with breathing. With these tools we design computational tools since we, ourselves, are not designed for high functional when it comes to computational matters. For a short time you think you can handle the numbers in your head but soon, you find yourself reaching for a hand held calculator, the calculator soon gives way to the computer. Quietly, your existence has become an extenuation of technology Just as stairs are systems designed around out physical limitations, we can design a non-monetary system around our behavioral limitations. Our minds are unreliable; that’s just fine. We are more than competent, to design social networks and computers that will ensure a much better future, in a highly reliable, effective manner. Let the triage begin. Tick Tock.

Posted by evolutis | Report as abusive

“Third World America?”…..LOL!!!!

Please, use a little bit of common sense and analysis before putting your ignorance in black and white.

I’ve lived in “third world” countries, and trust me, the US is far from “third world”.

Isn’t the correct terminology now “undeveloped” countries? (undeveloped, devloping, and developed).

I am eager to see authors like this eat their own words when the US economy comes ROARING back!!! (take some economic lessons, for crying out loud)

Posted by China_Lies | Report as abusive

“The owners of this country know the truth, its called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

George Carlin – RIP

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acLW1vFO- 2Q

Posted by Sux2BMe | Report as abusive

the “american dream” was an advertising campaign conceived at the end of world war two, when america’s major rivals lay in ruins and there was no serious competition from its economic rivals.

the “american dream” was doomed from its inception, as the conditions for its existence were essentially negative, in that it required the continued subjugation (economically, politically) of its nearest rivals to the needs/requirements of the “cold war.”

the end of the “cold war” meant the beginnings of an economic free-for all rivalry and, inevitably, the end of american economic/political world dominance.

a beautiful dialectic really

Posted by Angstworld | Report as abusive

Dear President,

Create 360K Jobs with No Cost to Treasury

I am writing you to urge suspension of Foreign Worker (H1B) program for four years. Every year, 80K foreign workers are given American jobs based on the notion that Americans are not available to take these jobs.

With the economy in the tailspin, budget deficit at all-time high, stock market in free-fall and federal government with no money to spend, this is no longer true. With the un-employment reaching highest in
modern history, we need to get our house in order before we go out of this country to look for workers.

All these years we have been told that markets will self-regulate themselves; things will find their own equilibrium. But you know this not true. So the notion that companies somehow will start to hire American workers before they hire foreign worker is not true. There are enough loop holes and lawyers to work around the law.

Companies like WIPRO and Infosys are well entrench in the corporate America. Any new work is automatically routed towards them for effort and cost estimates before thought of any new hire is realized. With the
significant down turn in the economy this practice will accelerate and will result in significant decrease in new hires.

The best way to deal with this problem is to suspend this law for next four years.

Posted by speakamerica | Report as abusive

The American dream isn’t exclusively American and was never that much of a dream. Now it is.

And as for legendary American optimism, that was cheap and easy optimism. We didn’t have our world blown down around us like the Europeans, Russians, Japanese, Chinese, and any country in either theater did during the last world war. Climbing out of that took more than optimism. My WWII Vet father reminds me that Hitler thought the US was on the margins of the world. Maybe we are heading back to the margins?

This country tends to be bipolar en masse. It “cycles” in a decade, I think. I got to agree somehow with the first comment about Reagen. Now I think he was one of those Up periods in the cycling. Getting people worked up and optimistic seems to imply that they are ready to “kick some butt”. That is getting very expensive and dangerous to do. But Mr. Roger’s neighborhood will put one to sleep in a fuzzy cardigan.

But what on earth is sustainable development or a sustainable economy?

An aspect of the “American dream” Mr.Debusmann fails to mention was the Constitutional promise that people could not be granted patents of nobility or become dynasties spanning centuries. The current economic problem is making it very possible for wealthy people to become more firmly entrenched in their family fortunes and for large portions of the population to become marginal and even expendable.

And that corrupt Congress mentioned somewhere suggests that there are ways around the Constitution. Evolutis – you flatter yourself that you were a superior and more evolved being with the right to cut the margins off the nation. “let the triage begin”? You are a techno nazi, but you make it sound so seductive.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

The decision makers in this country have absolutely no idea of the hardships on people below the poverty line. They make their decisions based on their knowledge and their class level. This economic decline has been going on since Reagan took office.

The Economic GDP numbers in the last 3 business cycles have been inflated by 1. Cocaine trafficking and money laundering of funds by legitimate banks in the 80s, 2.Improper revenue recognition in the 90s (“Dot-com bubble) and 3. Profits driven by debt issuance (sub prime mortgage bubble) in the ’00s.

Profit driven media outlets would like to spend most of their time focusing on the positives and not reporting the negatives until they absolutely have to do it. It’s a big 30 year smoke screen that has kept everyone in the U.S. thinking we’re #1.

Posted by CPA1976 | Report as abusive

I read it again – you’re not a techno nazi – you’re an anti techno nazi – What on earth are “back to the basics”? Where? Fundamentalists tend to think they know the basics too and they are suffering the malaise just like everyone else.

Please suggest how one can possibly live without the language of currency and not have the situation devolve into totalitarian communism with bells on?

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

With the current Government leaders and representatives we have no hope of fixing anything. A first step would be term limits of a single term so we get rid of the dead wood that is there. We have no choice, as both parties are bought and paid for. We are at 1932 in this depression and we have 7 more years to go, and we have planners and leaders in denial. Remember that Herbert Hoover was also in denial. He talked about prosperity being just around the corner, except they could not find the corner.

Posted by fred5407 | Report as abusive

China_Lies wrote: “when the US economy comes ROARING back!!!”

Rip van Winkle, it is good to see that you finally woke up. Let me tell you what you missed.

When you fell asleep, the USA worked like this: a recession would start, people would lose jobs, factories would stop work, people would still be buying products albeit at a slower pace, warehouses would eventually run out of products, factories would restart, factories would rehire American workers to meet demand, newly rehired workers would start buying again, and viola, recession is over.

Now it works like this: a recession starts, people lose jobs, factories stop work and often permanently close, people are still buying products albeit at a MUCH slower pace, warehouses eventually run out of products, new and old foreign factories restart, foreign factories hire Indians/Chinese/others to meet demand, but no Americans are hired so only the Wall Street portion of the recession ends.


Posted by saucymugwump | Report as abusive

Good article, but it did not go far enough.

Debusmann wrote: “The problem of the poor is that they are not a powerful constituency”

Shouldn’t that be, “The problem of the middle class and poor is that they are not a powerful constituency”? “Citizens United” was the icing on the oligarchs’ cake because it established that corporations are equal to people; actually they are more important due to their ability to bribe, er, give campaign contributions to, politicians.

The system will not change until a few changes are made.

#1 on the list is a drastic limit on campaign contributions. I propose that corporations, groups, and illegal immigrants are to be barred from making campaign contributions. Citizens can donate, but only $5000 per election per candidate.

#2 is a ban on political advertising on TV and radio for ads less than 1/2 hour in length. This will not be a back-door because only dedicated viewers will watch long political shows. Adding more debates will allow voters to choose their candidate.

#3 is term limits: three terms for Representatives and two terms for Senators.

However, all of the above is wishful thinking. No politician will ever kill his/her personal golden egg.


Posted by saucymugwump | Report as abusive

Make that, “No politician will ever kill his/her personal golden-egg-laying goose.”


Posted by saucymugwump | Report as abusive

education, education, education. we`ve been complacent and now we`ve fallen behind.

Posted by alejandro81 | Report as abusive

We made the rich rich, we elected the dirty politicians, we bailed out the crooks on Wall Street. We need to take back contol of our country. They aren’t going to give it back. We need to take it back and quit expecting others to do our work for us.

Posted by Woltmann | Report as abusive

If one looks at the popular music and the urban folk music of the 1930’s, there are a list of songs of the poor and out of work. The anthem of “the out of work” was “Buddy Can You Spare a Dime.” “Cottage for WSale,” “10 Cents a Dance,” and a host of others were played all the time and recorded by the Big Bands.” Folk songs included “Mister, Give Me Back My Job Again,” “Jesus Christ,” and a number of songs relating to the Dust Bowl. To those people, the American Dream was over as well. Then it came back, thanks to a global war which put Americans to work and then WWII itself which drafted men and put women to work for the duration.
Education after the war became the key to success. It seems no more.
This country is NO LONGER Capitalist
or even a “Managed Economy.” We have returned either to the Gilded Age of the late 19th Century OR a Corporate State not unlike the Italy of the 1920’s under Mussolini. It was called Fascism.
Apathy will end our country if we are not careful. Along with apathy is the inability to talk to each other in a civil manner.
If we lose hope, we will have none. Sadly, many are apathetic because they have lost hope. My greatest fear is that we will become totalitarian because of apathy and ignorance rather than anything else.

Posted by neahkahnie | Report as abusive

I wonder if the American working class will revolt and start a revolution like in the days of the Bolshevik republic that was the cradle of communism and the Socialist Soviet Republic? If there are historical parallels, that could mean an angry mob scene, raiding of mansions and burning of wealthy gated communities, and public demonstrations with morbid public spectacles like burnings of kidnapped bourgeois bankers wearing death masks with Bernard Madoff’s face. We ass-u-me this can never happen.

Posted by DisgustedReader | Report as abusive

dream?look up dream in the dictionary.It aint real.never really was.

Posted by deerecub1977 | Report as abusive

Reading the comments leaves no doubt as to the state of education in America. So not only will we be ‘third-world-America, we’ll be un-educated along with it….
Get schooled. It’s educational….

Posted by edgyinchina | Report as abusive

neahkahnie wrote: “Then it came back, thanks to a global war which put Americans to work and then WWII itself which drafted men and put women to work for the duration.”

I would add the following two points.

The USA had the world’s largest industrial capacity in the 1930s and 1940s. However, much of that has now been moved to China and India. During WWII, we supplied Russia, the UK, and many other countries with war materials. That would not be possible today. To be blunt, we could not win a long war again.

Paul Krugman pointed out that WWII can be viewed, economically speaking, as an enormous stimulus. Since the Great Depression did not end until WWII, the case can be made that stimulus can indeed end recessions.

neahkahnie wrote: “Education after the war became the key to success.”

This point should be tattooed onto the foreheads of every member of Congress, especially the Tea Party members. China, India, Europe, and many other countries have eaten our lunch because we allowed our educational system to wither and die. The days when manly men could conquer a continent with only a rifle are long gone. Our politicians participated in the pillaging of our educational system and now they want to import indentured servants (H-1B and L-1 visa holders) because we are not sufficiently educated.

neahkahnie wrote: “We have returned either to the Gilded Age of the late 19th Century OR a Corporate State not unlike the Italy of the 1920’s under Mussolini.”

This is an excellent point. I would say that both are true. Readers should read the Wikipedia page on George Pullman to discover the evils inherent in allowing robber barons to control our country.


Posted by saucymugwump | Report as abusive

“The problem of the poor is that they are not a powerful constituency. They don’t vote in great numbers and they don’t make contributions to re-election campaigns.”

Maybe the USA should be like Brazil, where voting is mandatory. There the poor people do vote, and look how President Lula has addressed their needs.

Posted by MerrillGrinch | Report as abusive

One of the tenets of National Socialism, known to English speakers as the Nazi party, was that everything that a country needs should be made within the borders of that country, so the country does not have to depend on others to survive.
(Of course, another tenet was, if the countries borders are not big enough-the best way to correct this problem is to annex…,)

If what happened to the Jews had not have happened, and if the WWII Allied propaganda machine had not been so effective that it shaped the thinking of three generations, perhaps we (50% German emigrant based population) could overlook our National ‘pride’ leanings, and our British based National heritage leanings, and see that perhaps we chose the wrong enemy 70 years ago.
Who won? Who lost?

Paintuan, you are so right about the wealthy families, (the ‘special interest groups-financial and ethnic- could be added here, also) and their entrenched status.
Their lifestyles are like the stories of the well connected royals of Europe and the Austrian/Hungarian Empire before WWI. Today’s ‘capitalists’, and ‘vicious capitalists’, are a lot smarter however, they can ‘mingle’,and we don’t even know who they are, while us ‘peons’ either labor at our little minimum wage jobs, or collect our food stamps, and try to scrape by, while trying to maintain a little human dignity.

It will be interesting to see where the next generation of Americans takes the country, but I agree, the post WWII ‘manufactured American Dream’, based on over consumption of things no one really needs, fast food, big houses with small windows, in neighborhoods many miles from any centers of human activity, with no parks, green space, sidewalks or even public transportation, is OVER.

Posted by 2pesos | Report as abusive

For my personal case I can’t go out from recession for 30 years, although I am hard worker. For 3o years I am owner of 100 m2 appartment and a small office of 20 m2. All the money that I still have are to sustain my son studies in Wales, GB ! In conclusion I can’t say ,,The american dream is over ” – depence what everyone means by ,,work hard”.
At first place – For whom to work hard ? For the Boss or for myself ? I duly prefer to work for myself and never to work for somebody else … whatever happen !

Posted by AGFA | Report as abusive

[…] Obama and the American dream in reverse | Analysis & Opinion | __________________ Float Like a Butterfly Sting Like a […]

Posted by BUND, TBOND and the middle of the guado (VM 69) – Pagina 858 – I Forum di Investireoggi | Report as abusive

Subprime mortgage again was Democrat Progressive Utopia that naturally came to its full term. Like a household member who takes the check book and just goes on a check writing rampage donating money to goodwill. but never stops writing checks. It’s called “Floating” and it is a felony crime to float checks. It is not what Obama inherited, but is what Obama Progressive Radical Marxist/Socialist Democrats and Obama look-alike’s, such as Jimmy Carter, Hilary Clinton, Bill Clinton and John McCain (mr. fony capitalist who hates large corporations and the wealth they generate for hundreds of thousands of good tax paying Americans) created in the late 70s. But they don’t really care about their targeted market of voters, they simply want power, at any cost, any price, no matter to who they step on or destroy in the process. Notice how they’ve failed the USA economy, yet they still want to remain in power. What is the fricken ego mania deal with this? What is it? Are we going to have to drag them out and burn stone them, I mean the little scum bag democrats who recently claimed the summer recovery had taken place as the unemployment rate jumped to a record high. I am sick and tired of driving down my hometown streets, looking in strip malls that have been populated for 40 years, now are all empty. This administration continues to blame Bush for the MONSTER DemocratProgressiveMarxistSocialist (one word) created and perverted to its peak. Now they want more control. Well let me say to my fellow Americans, I’m not going to pay these perverted narcisist any more of my income. I am MAD MAD MAD MAD AS FRICKEN HECK AND IM NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by airwaycherry | Report as abusive

Looks like this is a natural process of capitalism. Infant, growth and maturity stage. Any developed country is a good example, the hype about America is because of the size. It is high time China and India wake up to this call. Developing countries are not far from maturity stage, China would face similar situations much faster than america due to their aggressive social and economic measures.

When our expenses are running high we either reduce our expenses or increase income. I always prefer to increase income simply because it brings more life. The current situation is an amazing opportunity for creative, courageous and honest people for living a fulfilled life getting registered in the history books.

In this situation we can create a lot of disturbance to different stakeholders internal or external say H1b visa holders, people below poverty line or politicians by making heavy cuts. The other smooth and vibrant solution is to increase jobs (cmon, we all know this please don’t waste our time now). Yes, we all know this, so how and which sector is the question. IT – Indian are good use them, goods – Chinese are good use them, technology – Germans are good use them why waste our precious time.

The one virgin sector which is so obvious still overlooked is GREEN. Yes, green technology think all the energy import if we can produce ourselves what would be our savings and job creation. How do we do this, good old mantra levy tax on imports say 50-100% tax on oil imports and the same revenue can be moved to green technology as subsidies.

Yes, oppositions would be there but a good chance for politicians to use this opportunity. Politicians can take the support of environmentalist, people below poverty line and Universities and innovators who need funds for new technology. Otherwise, we might send H1B guys back home, no Chinese products, lot of cuts, compete with technology and production guys in monetary terms and reduce our spendings.

Recession is not a big problem but ARROGANCE is, history has sufficient examples. If we don’t come up with creative ideas, learning from our mistakes and others. We might still manage to sustain or grow remember some one else might lead.

We easily forget when we were poor, but its difficult to forget when we were rich.(Jesse Livermore note-wordings are different but meaning conveyed)

Posted by Mur-li | Report as abusive

the common denominator throughout all of these comments basically boils down to …1- government failures 2- abolition of the gold standard in 1972 3-people’s failures by electing lawyers to steer a ship the size of the US economy when their only financial expertise lies in “escrow account” monthly balancing.
Don’t blame the rest of the world for the failures from within. To find the people at fault is easy… just look in the mirror.

Posted by TOTH | Report as abusive

The “American Dream” is exactly what it says: A dream. The dream, to become reality, has to have a basis partly in effort on the part of the Dreamer and partly on Providence. With loss of belief in Providence (note: I am carefully avoiding the word God), only half the equation being present, no wonder the dream still reamins a dream.

Posted by ClementW | Report as abusive

American Dream died together with the soviet union and pretence of a capitalist system which valued its working class… since than its been a steady widdening gap beetwen ruling class and the rest of the population, with some very smart or lucky ( or very stupid or unlucky) exceptions off course.
the problem is corruption, and every system eventually falls becouse of it
corruption – corrumpere, latin word meaning to destroy.

Posted by johny2 | Report as abusive

Mur li is right. GREEN technology offers a way forward.
The problem?
It will not be allowed in this ‘consumer nation’, by those who pull the strings to which we Americans dance.

Do you remember that commercial with the ‘crying Indian’, from keep America Beautiful? These words were a slogan for a corporation whose mission was to promote disposable products.

Do you remember when ALL soda came in ‘recyclable’ bottles? In Europe most water and soda still does, if the bottle cannot be recycled (i.e. refilled), it may be returned for deposit. Do any of you remember looking for bottles as a kid, to get the deposit money?
Attempts have been made to recycle bottles again in the US, they are always blocked, by either the capitalists, or the vicious capitalists, I forget which.

Look at the benefit, out of work people picking up ‘return for deposit’ bottles, a little ‘trickle down income’ for the over 50% of America who DON’T have decent incomes, and clean streets.
“Not on our watch”, says the US Congress.

Look at Solar Energy. Can anyone explain to me why Germany, a country on a latitude with Canada, is the world leader in Solar production, while our sun drenched Southern American still reek of oil and gas fumes?
“We can’t afford Solar”, says the US Congress, “we can only afford wars to get more oil”.

I don’t see the Tea party as much of a solution to any of these problems. They are just channeling ‘us against anger’, not getting at fundamental problems at all.

Posted by 2pesos | Report as abusive

We speak of unemployment, lack of health insurance mortgage failure and the list goes on…at some point we American’s have got to stop electing the same people to the same job and getting the same result…accountability used to stand for something now we look to other’s (Washington) to solve these problem’s…when I bought my first home…we bought what we could afford not what we thought we could afford and my familiy and worked hard for the common good of the family…we need to stop blaming other’s for our problem’s and unite as one people, one country of American’s and we as a people a united people can make change regardless of who’s in Washington…ifyou think it cannot be done as the original colonist’s who fought the British to change and maintain the live’s they chose…wake up folk’s the drive by media has made you numb to your ability to initiate change…

Posted by vanatta1 | Report as abusive

[…] the past four decades, the annual incomes of the bottom 90 percent have changed relatively little while those of the top 1 percent have tripled. In terms of equitable distribution of income and wealth, the U.S. is closer to Iran, Argentina or […]

Posted by The "American Dream"???? – US Message Board – Political Discussion Forum | Report as abusive

Excellent article, Mr. Debusmann.

It seems I need to put a comment to that effect as I refuse to join Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Posted by Warburton | Report as abusive

Dafydd, Americans have smelled the coffee. Watching Obama, is like watching a horror movie, only the nightmares may last a life time! Where is Regan when you need him?

Posted by gurroz | Report as abusive

[…] Δημοσιεύθηκε από A Lord of the Night στο Σεπτεμβρίου 26, 2010 http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/20 10/09/24/obama-and-the-american-dream-in -reverse/ […]

Posted by Obama and the American dream in reverse « A Lord of the Night is Wandering – CARPE NOCTEM | Report as abusive

[…] more: Obama and the American dream in reverse | Analysis & Opinion | This entry was written by avarvegodgili & filed under Obama and tagged described-the-plight, […]

Posted by President Barack Obama » Obama and the American dream in reverse | Analysis & Opinion | | Report as abusive

The American definition of poverty is quite unrealistic. In America, for 22K per year (2 adults, 2 children…and even a dog), a family can live in a safe structure, wear clean clothes every day, eat food (GASP…from WAL MART), work, and even pursue a hobby. Now, the housing might be “undesirable” in the American definition, but it will still be warm or cool depending on season, and dry, and provide necessary shelter. The clothing may not be fashionably acceptable, but it will provide the proper utility of clothing you. And though the food may not be Organic or sustainably farmed, or whatever else the rich liberals are all telling us we should eat, it will provide enough nutrition that one can live in excess of 70+ years with reasonable health (provided an individual makes healthy purchasing decisions, which, yes, one can actually do at Wal Mart). Now all one has to do is drive over the Mexican border and see people who are really poor; living in makeshift and unsafe shelter (cardboard boxes), eating non nutritious foods, and wearing rags. I lived the American definition of “poverty” for several years while I worked my way through college, and even found a good job during the so called “great recession,” but I suppose I was just “lucky.” Bernd, you and your misguided ilk need to stop whining. The American Dream is not for you or those that believe riches should fall into your lap just because you live and breathe.

Posted by Zacs | Report as abusive

[…] […]

Posted by dubbio del sabato pomeriggio prima di portare il cane dal veterinaio – Pagina 4 – I Forum di Investireoggi | Report as abusive

Americans who are tapping their keyboards pining about the death of the American dream sound like a bunch of spoiled brats. You never think you are rich enough but from a worldly perspective most Americans are off the scale. Yet, you have no idea because your wants have reached a saturation level while Politicians and Madison Ave insist you deserve lots, lots more. Most of you whiners have far more than those who came before you and an unimaginably cushy life compared to 75% of the world’s inhabitants. Yet life in America is simply intolerable and getting worse all the time. Take a look around America and learn what 3rd World really is, you are a far cry from anything remotely close to it. Americans need to wise up and realize the Arianna Huffington’s of the world are making their living by telling you the sky is falling. Don’t buy it.

Posted by GLK | Report as abusive

Let me summarize this article.
1. The American Dream can be defined as “if you work hard, you can get ahead.”
2. Most of America seems to be having trouble getting ahead
3. You conclude the Dream may not actually be real.

Is it possible that people are having trouble with the second part because they aren’t doing the first part right? The credit boom was an easy way for people to get ahead *without* working hard. The American Dream was cheapened, and now that’s it’s been revalued, people seem to think it’s impossible.

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive

You got to love the righties. A lot of vacant space between the ears and not much for facts. And since they’re OK everyone else should be just fine. We’re all just whiners. No matter that many of us lost a huge chunk of our retirement savings or lost our pensions. Our homes aren’t even worth what we paid for them and if you were lucky you still have a job although instead of doing the work of 3 people you’re now doing the work of 6 or 7.
Many of the same people who say we’re whiners seem to think it’s our fault that all this happened. We were living beyond our means. Really? What the hell does that mean?
Many of these same people are retired, having worked for the same company most of their lives. They have a pension, social security and Medicare and their homes are nearly paid for.
They have the gall to criticize us for wanting the same thing. Instead they cheer when companies send jobs overseas because some how American workers make way too much money for their poor employers. So they say that competing with someone who makes less than a dollar an hour is some how fair. Some large companies don’t even pay taxes yet these same people say it costs too much for businesses to stay here.
So it was OK for them to make a decent living but we’re not worthy? Oh, that’s right we just need to set our sights a little lower.

Posted by AZ_Inde | Report as abusive

“An honest man can see that America is now on the brink of chaos and even suicide. But without philosophy he cannot identify the opposite principles at work in our mixed economy or even know that the system is a mixture of opposites. If a man understands only that “Something is wrong,” he is vulnerable to those who clamor that what is wrong is that there is still too much capitalism in the country.
History, economics, journalism are not to be disparaged. But no amount of historical, economic, or journalistic data by themselves will change men’s mind on the issue of capitalism vs. statism.
The battle for the world is not a battle between two political ideals. It is a battle between two views of the nature of thought.
Capitalism is practical. Capitalism is moral. Capitalism is true. But men will never know it until they understand these three concepts, along with everything on which they hierarchically depend.
If men are ever to reach a world where man is free, free not by permission but on principle, they must first enact the cause of freedom: they must grasp and accept the intellectual base it requires.
If they do so, the next American Revolution—in whatever land it occurs—will be more than a historic interlude. Next time, it will have a chance of lasting.” (1991)

The Objectivism Research CD Rom: The Works of Ayn Rand [CD-ROM]. Available: http://www.amazon.com/Objectivism-Resear ch-CD-Rom-Works/dp/0971178704 Accessed on 2010/09/21

Posted by Cyberian | Report as abusive

has anyone here actually been to a third world country?

seriously we aren’t doing that bad.

any american on unemployment is doing better than any chinese factory worker.

china may seem like its doing so well bc the media is biased to make things seem better than they are. ours is biased to make things seem worse.

Posted by person28 | Report as abusive

[…] Obama and the American dream in reverse […]

Posted by Opinions: | Pitts Report | Report as abusive

Your life is what you make it. If you give up like so many of you seem ready to do, your pessimistic visions will become reality. This country became what it is because Americans made their own dreams come true. The worst thing that can happen to us now is for people to go further down the entitlement road instead of working to earn their own futures.

Posted by mheld45 | Report as abusive

During Obama’s Town Hall Meeting on CNBC recently, Obama used himself as an example that that the American Dream is still alive. Kind of silly since he is the exception that proves the rule.

“Getting Back To The American Dream” is a book on Amazon that goes into lots of detail. At least I assume it is on Amazon.

Posted by magnets | Report as abusive

To create the United States required the intellect and the painstaking debates of the Founding Fathers; to run it into the ground, only the crew of anti-intellectuals now ensconced in Washington.
“No thought, knowledge, or consistency is required in order to destroy,” writes Ayn Rand,
unremitting thought, enormous knowledge, and a ruthless consistency are required in order to achieve or create. Every error, evasion, or contradiction helps the goal of destruction; only reason and logic can advance the goal of construction. The negative requires an absence (ignorance, impotence, irrationality); the positive requires a presence, an existent (knowledge, efficacy, thought).
Evil men, though impotent, can disappoint, deceive, and betray the innocent; if they turn to crime, they can rob, enslave, and kill. This is one reason that man needs to practice the virtue of justice (to distinguish between the good and the evil). Peikoff, L. 1991

The Objectivism Research CD Rom: The Works of Ayn Rand [CD-ROM]. Available: http://www.amazon.com/Objectivism-Resear ch-CD-Rom-Works/dp/0971178704 Accessed on 2010/09/21

Posted by Cyberian | Report as abusive

Free trade is still the major cause behind our economic crisis. The American Dream was reversed years ago when President Clinton, a Democrat controlled Congress, the Contract with America Republics to be and even Rush Limbaugh joined hands in the passing of the free trade agreements set up by the elder President Bush. Since then all our presidents have been globalist free traders and betrayed American workers since 1994. Free trade was a failure from the beginning. By 1994, more than 4000 U.S. factories were moved to Mexico alone. Soon after, President Clinton had to rush billions of dollars to Mexico to save the peso and the Mexican economy. It turned out to be the first stimulus bail out package and it went to a foreign nation. None of this stopped the flow of Mexican workers coming to American for the sake of survival. About ten Mexican bishops called free trade cultural death. President Bush followed President Clinton and his the economic mess behind his “shock and awe” wars. President Obama followed and had to bail out the the process to save the day. He bailed out big money, the financial communities, the banks, Wall Street and the “too big to fail” corporations while ignoring the suffering of all who lost everything due to free trade. Search under the title of Ray Tapajna topical editorial artwork titled – Clinton Years American Dream Reversed- and you will find more than 1.5 million references related to his art work, he first did in 1999. Later he added a rendition of it at http://ray-tapajna.artiswebsites.com titled Double Talk from the Land of is. See more of the story and more images at http://ray-tapajna-info-net/clinton and see many related links about the most massive dislocation of workers in U.S. history.

Posted by tapsearcher2 | Report as abusive