Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: The Evolution of the American Dream

Title: The Evolution of the American Dream: How the Promise of Equal Opportunity became a Quest for Equal Results
Author: Bob Skandalaris with Amber Clark
2011: Auburn Hills, MI: Pembrook Publishing
Hardcover: pages 296

Bob Skandalaris provides a nice overview the history of the American Dream. He sets out the historical perspective from the New World to the 21st Century, what it is to dream the American Dream versus what it is to attain it. In short, the American Dream was within attainment for the average American in the 1940s -1950s. Since that time, it’s become increasingly difficult for subsequent generations to attain the dream as the dream is increasingly financial expensive. In the end, the author blames the common person for the dilemma even though he laid out the historical facts to take the ending in a different direction.

In the beginning, immigrants in the 1600s were looking for the New World, a place to make their name and bring back or create wealth. Most immigrants found a difficult and short life.

As the colonies came into existence, subsidy from the home country was vital in the outcome of the immigrants’ success. While there was room in the new land for business and expansion resources were required to build the infrastructure. Thoughtful men began to understand the resources of the New World were ripe for the picking and export back to the home land and investors.

Freedom and Justice in theory came from the Enlightenment movement started in Scotland. The movement spread around the globe with great speed especially considering the time required for correspondence. The time was right for men to use their minds to improve not only their own condition but to guarantee rights to each man.

The Gilded Age built wealth in a way that was never seen before. The number of men who came to disregard the enlightenment premise of fairness to all came to find that freedom for the rich allowed them to collect wealth for the express purpose to manipulate markets for a better personal position without regard for others or society.

Reinventing the Dream came as the general public tired of the few disregarding society at the expense of the many. The many began to come together to require the few to pay their proportional portion to the workers and the government. This was done through gathering and union negotiations and government regulations by ethical men (at least in comparison to the Robber Barons).

The Good Life was found through the promise of fair employment, social security and a guaranteed chance at future generations attaining at least as much as their parents. The Dream of education and home ownership increased. Americans worked harder to attain. Women joined men in the work place. Consumerism increased and the top few percent of people enjoyed the benefits of a happy society and increased productivity.

With the Reagan Revolution society changed the thought that anyone and everyone was worthy an unending share of the American Dream without personal effort. While the examples of fraudulent activities were few, the media created the thought that neighbors and others didn’t deserve the government help they requests. End result the 90% tax during the Eisenhower Administration which built American was set to decrease the burden on the richest in America and increase taxes on the middle and lower classes. With the propaganda that fair tax meant equal percentage of income tax regardless of the echelon of the taxpayer, the effect was a drastic decrease in government income which resulted in fewer regular jobs and less taxes. Twenty years the country was in serious trouble with only a dot com bubble to shield the population from the truth.

The last few chapters outline the austerity plan which blames the poor for being poor. It also asks the question to the middle class why should you be worth food, housing and health care?

While I liked historical context of the book, I profoundly disagree with the direction and questions the book takes at the end. It would serve the reader better to ask questions about the solution rather than questions that lay blame with the average person outside the realm of responsible party in the larger American economic field. The countless sums of money lost by the average person in the loss of home values, the loss of employment, the loss of retirement funds, the increase in energy costs, the increase in financial fees, the increase in food, and the increase in health care costs while bankers and investment people thrive hardly supports the supposition that the average person is to blame.

Rich immigrants come to America, buy houses, cars, and businesses. The American Dream is available and for sale to the rich of the world. The question needs to be: is the American Dream available for the less fortunate, the homeless, the tired, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free who are already here? If so, how does America restructure to offer the Dream to the average person again? If not, who’s responsible and what do we do without a dream or hope?

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