The American Dream is the idea that anyone can make it in this country.
With the classic imagery of gazing upon the Statue of Liberty for the first time, there’s this international narrative that America is where to find your rags to riches story: that if you just work hard enough, you will build your dream life.
However, a combination of stagnating wages, decline in unions, and massive wealth inequality tells a different story.
The US has one of the worst social mobility rates of all first world countries, behind countries considered more socialist such as France and England.
What this means for individual Americans is that those born in poverty are much less likely to be able to rise above that poverty than in any other first world country.
Those looking to achieve the American Dream, are more likely to achieve it somewhere other than America.
This is especially concerning since as of 2019, the US has the highest poverty rate of all the rich countries.
With the wealth inequality in the US being comparable to that of third world countries, this increasing gap contributes greatly to encouraging the stagnation in social mobility.
A very much current ideal, the American Dream directly contradicts the realities of its country. This idea that claims that hard work is directionally transactional to success paints two pictures: (1) that those who are rich are simply hard-working and (2) that those who are poor are simply lazy.
Aligning with many stereotypes of people experiencing homelessness to be unmotivated and weak-willed, the simplistic narrative of the American Dream encourages systems that continue to disenfranchise working class Americans and reward the top 1%.
An example of these policies include supply-side economics (“trickle-down” economics), which justifies tax cuts to the wealthiest of Americans with the argument that they are “job creators” and therefore giving them tax cuts will create more jobs in the long run.
Since giving the wealthiest of Americans large sums of money strangely enough does not create equal investment into the workers they employ or proportional consumer spending, these tax cuts effectively only benefit these millionaires and billionaires.
There are, in reality, many obvious and unobvious negative consequences the United States has faced due to extreme inequality.
The obvious being the majority of a country’s citizens are kept at a lower quality of life for the sake of a powerful, wealthy few.
Less obvious consequences include a skewed/less efficient economy and a less efficient democratic process/policies.
With the drastic wealth that the top 1% of Americans are compiling, these top earners are also buying influence and skewing politics. As shown by legalized donations of millions of dollars to presidential campaigns within the last few decades, the wealthiest of the wealthy are essentially able to “buy a president.”
This buying of influence puts policy makers in favor of this top socioeconomic class thus creating more policies favoring the wealthiest and continuing the vicious cycle of increasing income inequality.
With the middle class being the backbone of a successful economy, this destabilization is having increasingly negative effects on the overall economic health.
It puts into place a vicious cycle that starts with low income then goes to low consumption and downsizing which perpetuates on.
From that, comes a conclusion that’s less obvious, but very evident, in that low inequality benefits all citizens, rich and poor.
There’s nothing inherently about being rich that makes one person more deserving of opportunity than the other, yet with today’s economic policies and education structure that’s exactly the narrative that today’s society takes.
We idolize these millionaires and billionaires and look down on those in poverty and experiencing homelessness.
We fantasize about the statistically unlikely scenario that we ourselves will become impossibly rich while also ignoring the much more likely possibility of falling into homelessness.
We associate wealth with worth then unfairly assign people in certain circumstances more or less worth, believing them to inherently deserve more or deserve less.
The American Dream is just that, a dream, and reality is in direct opposition to that.
No doubt there exists people who are able to rise from poverty to immense wealth, but there is no grand movement or equal opportunity enabling this rise.
To pretend that there is, contributes to the dehumanization and disenfranchisement of American citizens.