The American Dream

January 21, 2010
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If you could imagine your life anyway you wanted to, what would you see? Most people would probably imagine the American dream- lots of money, success, wealth and maybe even fame and the perfect idealistic family. Not only is the American dream about riches but also the freedom to worship freely, freedom to say what we want, freedom of press, and security. The Founding Fathers of America had a vision- their American dream is stated,” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Founding Fathers believed ‘in God we trust,’ and set up some parts of the government biblically. King Solomon of the Bible once said,” When there is no vision, the people perish.” The Founding Father’s American dream could be considered the vision that established our government as one nation under God. In America today the American dream of wealth and financial stability is becoming less achievable for most everyone. According to a new survey released by the National League of Cities, poor quality public education and financial insecurity are the most significant barriers especially for young people. This survey which was conducted by KRC Research found that one in three Americans don’t believe they are living the American dream and one half think it is unattainable for them. So… Is achieving the American dream more difficult for today’s generation than previous generations?

Even with today’s gas prices having been so low and only slowly rising, we all know the economy hasn’t been at its best. Stock holders are being told to keep their stocks and not panic and sell, but even so, a lot of people lost a lot of money-fast, and there has recently been a jump in unemployment that is sending stocks lower. The Dow Jones industrial average fell one hundred forty-three points to end one week down nearly five percent. The Labor Department reports employers cut 524000 jobs in December of 2008 and the unemployment rate jumped to a sixteen year high of 7.2 percent. Rising unemployment slows the consumption of consumers spending which accounts for more than two thirds United States economic activity. In the whole year of 2008 the economy lost 2.6 million jobs which is the most since 1945. With the unemployment rate at its highest in over sixty years, Wall Street as well as the American people are concerned about how long the economy will be suffering.

When trying to accomplish the American dream of wealth, poverty and debt are difficult to overcome even with payment plans and loans. The average American household’s credit card debt in 1990 was $2,966 and in 2007 it was $9,840. According to a study released by Bankrate Inc. in February 2008, sixty six percent of Americans say that debt is the result of unfortunate circumstances while sixty percent say it is usually the result of bad decisions. Regardless of the cause of debt, as years pass, Americans seem to be falling deeper into debt. In 1968 the total consumer credit card debt was 8 billion dollars whereas now it exceeds 880 billion according to the Federal Reserve Bank.

As most people are attempting to achieve the American dream yet barely getting by, the lucky few are becoming rich almost instantly. Today there are three leading ways to instant wealth. With large-prize television game shows, big jackpot state lotteries, and compensation law suits, many can and are quickly turning from rags to riches. In America not only is the unemployment rate at a high but so is the quest for money. Many people are giving up on the tradition of thrift and hard work and instead are focusing on ‘waiting for the mailbox’ or for their instant chance at wealth.

Even with the unemployment rate at a high, receiving a college education can still make a crucial impact. Few out of college are receiving a six figure starting salary. For most, they don’t get a job paying quite that much at first but still jobs out of college are higher than they have been in paying in past years. Most majors have been seeing significant increases since 2005 and have been enjoying a nine percent increase or more in starting salaries according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Achieving the American dream in today’s generation is more difficult. Once you are in debt, it is difficult to escape and your debt grows even deeper. Receiving a college education only makes a difference if you choose the right major, and even so, the debt can begin there. 43% of freshman college students and 74% of 4th and 5th year students have credit cards and the debt begins to pile up already.

With chances to get rich instantly and starting salaries out of college so high, it would seem that this generation could easily achieve the American dream, but in reality only the fortunate few can. What about everyone else? Unemployment and debt in our current generation are reaching highs. According to the Federal Reserve Bank forty percent of Americans spend more money than they earn and become in debt. Everywhere you go, you see advertisements for impractical things but you still can’t help but want them. We always want better and more because we are told what we have isn’t enough. Not only do families spend money they don’t have on things they don’t really need but twenty-nine percent of low and middle income households with credit card debt report that medical expenses have contributed greatly to their debt. Not only is the cost of unnecessary items higher in America today but also the value of so many essential things for example, medical care, is contributing to debt. Things such as a home or arbitrary items you think you need may cost more today, but the Founding Fathers American dream of freedom comes as a natural right that we are used to and take advantage of. Achieving the American dream of wealth may be more difficult for our generation but without the founding fathers dream of freedom it wouldn’t be possible at all.





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