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Can we say that the American Dream is still alive nowadays? Or is is turning into a nightmare?
In 1931, the historian James Adams defined the term “American Dream” as the pursuit of success and freedom – an idea deeply rooted in the belief that “all men are created equal.” However, this concept was born with the discovery of America, because even in the 17th century, when the first colonies were established there, the continent was a symbol of liberty, individualism and progress.
People today have different perceptions about whether we need the American Dream or not. Some critics claim that it is the main culprit for the loss of moral sense in the Americans and for the birth of the materialistic and selfish society we live in today. But, did we really start valuing money more than people because of the American Dream?
The country of “unlimited opportunities,” as the U.S. was often called, does not exist anymore according to some economists. The world financial crisis has not missed the ‘New World,’ however: for some people, the moral problems among authorities that have sharpened in the recent years have a greater impact on the current situation. Wall Street frauds, illegal business transactions, corruption. As if the the thirst for money can never be quenched.
The constantly growing social inequality and the political system that serves those who can afford to invest enough in it are the main reasons for the decay of the American Dream.
According to Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University, this term is already a “myth.” He assumes that the enormous economic gap between the different social classes in the American country results mainly from the fact that while the bank accounts of the rich are enlarging, for the poor it is much more difficult to make buckle and tongue meet. The classless society will never become a reality in the U.S. and nation-wide as a whole.
Stiglitz is convinced that most Americans believe that the financial and class inequality derives from the fast economic development that took place in the last years. However, he reminds everyone of the fact that after the Second World War, the economy in the U.S. started its vehement growth and advance, but the gap between the middle-class and the well-off was not as broad as it is now.
Stiglitz’s solution: the U.S. has to invest more in public education and in programs that can give chances to young, ordinary Americans to pursue a brighter future in their home country.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama appealed to Congress for an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for those whose annual income does not exceed $250,000, and thus he supported the government’s initiative to hold down middle-class tax rates.
According to Stiglitz, now the U.S. faces a dilemma with historical significance. “If it continues as it has in recent decades, the lack of opportunity will mean a more divided society, marked by lower growth and higher social, political and economic instability,” he commented.
A lot of specialists claim that the American nation first has to escape from the moral crisis and then to look for financial prosperity. Recently Ron Haskin, a former White House adviser on welfare issues and now director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families and the Budgeting for National Priorities Project, expressed his idea that the young generation in the U.S. should follow three main steps in order to emerge from the poverty.
According to him, high-level education, full time work and marriage after attaining at least the age of 21 are the keys to the normal middle-class life in the North American country. Hoskins is prone to believe in the individual initiative and desire rather than in the improvement of the political system.
The American Dream means a pursuit of happiness, opportunity and freedom. This concept will never be buried because sometimes it is enough for people only to believe in its existence in order to continue living.