That’s no one’s fault and there’s no one to blame for that, but the perpetuation of the myth that every American has the ability to work hard and become successful is just that—a myth.
The inherent flaw with The American Dream in a capitalist economy is the fact that not everyone can be successful and not everyone can be rich. Somebody has to make minimum wage sweeping the floor. I’m not sure if Republicans are too dumb to realize that, or if they do realize but feign ignorance to paint themselves as hard workers who deserved every penny they made. Every successful person seems to think they did it all themselves, with no luck involved in the midst of just the right set of circumstances. They conveniently ignore all of the other people who worked just as hard yet failed to get anywhere.
That’s my problem with looking down on poor people. The pervasive mindset in this country seems to be that if you’re poor, it’s your own fault because you didn’t work hard enough. Maybe that’s true in some cases. Maybe, for whatever reasons, Jim gave up early and stopped trying, so now he’s poor.
But what about David, who worked two jobs in high school trying to keep food on the table for his single mother and younger siblings; who worked 80 hour weeks at two full time jobs to help pay the mortgage after graduation; who can’t get promoted at work because he never had the opportunity to get a college education; who will always be an hourly worker scraping by to make ends meet? Are you saying he didn’t work as hard as the hedge fund manager with two well-to-do parents who put him through school and paid for his first apartment so he could focus on unpaid internships? I’m not painting that guy as a bad guy. I’m just pointing out he’s no more a hard-worker than the poor guy is lazy just because one of them makes fifty times the salary of the other.
The concentration of wealth is staggering in this country and there’s no real trickle-down of affluence. If you were born rich, chances are, you stay rich. If you were born poor, chances are, you stay poor. And the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. There are hard workers all over this country—keeping the country running, mind you—who can barely afford a decent standard of living.
Look at this chart.
That is how many hours a person making minimum wage would need to work per week in order to afford a basic two-bedroom apartment. All of them are over 40. These are hard-working people barely hanging on to what should be the lower rungs of the American Dream. Shouldn’t any American citizen who is gainfully employed be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment? In a country where our elected officials spend millions of dollars on vacation homes, the majority of the people who put them there have no real hope of ever reaching even a taste of that success.
This is why I naturally have so many socialist leanings. Why do we reward people who are lucky? Whether they’re lucky enough to be born into the privilege of setting them up for success, or lucky enough to see their hard work help them claw and scratch their way up from the bottom to the top of the totem pole, it’s still luck. A banker who is a banker because he grew up with the finest education money could buy and had the connections to set him up in a career that pays a lot of money is no more important than the construction workers who physically built the bank in the first place. So why is there such an income disparity between the two? Why do teachers, who are the first cog in the wheels of success, get paid so much less than the doctors they taught in the first place?
Do you know why people living in Scandinavian countries are so happy? Because they don’t have to worry about money. Scandinavian countries always make up three to five of the top ten happiest countries on earth and it’s because they’re all economic socialists. If everyone is making the same amount of money (after taxes) then people choose their jobs based on what they like to do, not how much money they’ll get paid. Teachers would teach because they like to teach, not because it’s job security. Doctors would take patients because they want to help people, not because they want a lake house in the future. And politicians worth hundreds of millions of dollars wouldn’t have to tell lies to their constituents about working hard and eventually being rich, because they’d all be on equal footing.
That would be my American Dream—not the bundle of lies we pass on to our children now.