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The American Dream is Killing Us

Posted by Ponderer 
The American Dream is Killing Us
November 09, 2019 07:06PM
I would really love to discuss what people think about this. This article is possibly the best thing I've read all year. This should be required reading, first day of any civics class in any American school. If such things still exist anywhere nowadays.

This is a wake up call. This is the Red Pill. This is a brilliant encapsulation of the current and past states of this country explained in an effortlessly readable, well thought out narrative that clearly explains how and why we got where the @#$%& an average American now finds themselves to be.

Please take the time to read this whole incredible article and let's discuss what you think about the realities that it illustrates.



The American Dream Is Killing Us

By almost every major statistical measurement, the average American is worse off than they were a generation ago.

Imagine this: you’re a kid again, and you want to sell lemonade in your neighborhood. So you set up your little lemonade stand with your cardboard sign written in crayon and get to work.

The first day, one person comes and buys some lemonade. Then the second day, two people come. Then the third, three. And the fourth, four. Within a month, you’re serving dozens of people lemonade every day and the demand just keeps growing.

But it gets better. Not only does the whole neighborhood want a taste of your sweet, citrus squeeze, but the price of lemons just seems to keep getting cheaper. At first, you can get five lemons for a dollar. Then the next week you can get eight for a dollar. Then the next you can get twelve. And on and on. Within a few months, you’re a lemonade money-making machine.

Of course, news gets out about your magical lemonade neighborhood. And pretty soon other kids are setting up their lemonade stands all around you.

But it doesn’t matter, the demand just keeps growing. So you welcome these other kids. You tell them, “This is the neighborhood of opportunity, where anyone can sell lemonade and make money.” Meanwhile, as if by magic, more people show up every day for lemonade, and the price of lemons just keep getting cheaper.

You and the other kids realize something: it is impossible to not make money in this neighborhood. The only way not to make money is to be either lazy or completely incompetent.1 Your lemonade opportunities are only limited by the time and energy you’re willing to put into it. The sky is the limit, and the only thing standing between you and your dreams of lemonade riches is yourself.

Unsurprisingly, a culture starts to develop around the neighborhood. Narratives are formed about certain kids who sell lots of lemonade and other kids who don’t. This kid is a genius and sells lemonade 20 hours a day. This kid is a loser who couldn’t sell ice water in a desert, not to mention he probably drinks half of his own stash.

Kids come to see life in a pretty simple way: people get what they deserve. Or put similarly: people deserve whatever they get. And if they want something better, they should have been smarter and/or worked harder for it.

Time goes by. And news of this magical lemonade neighborhood — now serving lemonade to thousands of customers daily — starts to spread widely. Kids start bussing in from faraway neighborhoods to try their hand at making it in the lemonade world. They take the worst jobs squeezing lemons and throwing out garbage because they know that with the boundless opportunity in the lemonade neighborhood, it’s merely a matter of time before they move up and start making good money themselves.

This goes on for months, and the kids in the neighborhood begin to realize something else: that their neighborhood is special. It seems to be chosen by God. After all, if kids are bussing in from all over town just to sell drops of lemonade here, there must be something truly special about the opportunities present. The kids here have far more money. And they work twice as hard as kids anywhere else. This really must be an exceptional place.

But then one day, things begin to change. First, you hear that the Japanese kids across town have figured out how to produce twice the lemonade for half the price, making it impossible for you to compete. Then, there are rumors that the massive influx of poor Chinese kids are undercutting your prices and stealing away your customers.

But secondly, some of the more successful lemonade vendors have gone around and bought up the less successful lemonade stands. So instead of hundreds of independent lemonade vendor kids, you have about a dozen uber-rich kids controlling the majority of the lemonade market. And to cut costs and bring in good returns for their investors, they start paying workers less for the same work. But instead of telling the kids this, they tell them to simply work harder. After all, people deserve whatever they earn, right?

It happens slowly at first. But then the reality becomes unavoidable: kids in the neighborhood are now making less money even though they are working harder and longer than ever before.

Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 09, 2019 08:47PM
Ponderer,
Here's my take on that commentary.

I question the oft-stated claim that the average American is worse off than their parents. We certainly have more creature comforts now than I did as a kid. When my parents bought a TV in the fifties, it was a black & white set with a round screen about the size of lunch plate. The cabinet was about the size of clothes dryer. We were able to watch about three channels (and a test pattern before 5:00 am). Now we have multiple TV's in our home, some that are giant flat-screens with many channels including new movies. It's a good thing the Japanese kids figured out how to make a high-definition television that's cheaper than our old Philco!

As a kid, if I wanted to look up something, I was limited to a dictionary, an encyclopedia set and few other reference books. Now, with the Internet, we can look up virtually anything. We subscribed to the Milwaukee Journal when I was growing up. Today I can read the Milwaukee Journal, the Oregonian and other newspapers and news sources for free. We subscribe the NY Times online for less than a local newspaper subscription cost a generation ago.

Flying in an airplane when I was a kid, was a luxury that only the very rich could afford. We never flew anywhere as a family. As an adult, with my family, we've flown more times than I can remember. You get the picture of what I am saying here, I am sure you can think of other examples where you can buy things cheaper and get more for our money than your parents could.

The other assumption is that a certain generation today earns less in inflated adjusted dollars than their parents. Maybe. But so what? Did the sixteenth century cobbler make more money than his cobbler father? Did the nineteenth century farmer out earn his farmer father? My mother growing up in the Depression had it tougher than kids of an earlier generation. (My dad's folks were well-off during the Depression but that's another story.) Is there some economic law stating that income must constantly increase and never dip?

As for the dystopian lemonade analogy, that doesn't ring true to me. I don't recall ever having a lemonade stand a kid. Maybe there was glut of curbside lemonade in our neighborhood. But I mowed lawns and shoveled snow. I sold newspaper subscriptions. I babysat. We all have to find our way in the world. We have to budget our money, live within our means and not covet our neighbors' possessions. In other words, find happiness in what we do and have.




"White power! White power!" --Demented Racist Donald Trump


Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 09, 2019 09:18PM
An increase in the % of low-paying jobs along with a decrease in the % of mid-range-paying jobs, which is what has happened, isn't a good thing, Curt. Instead of looking at your family's situation, you should be looking at what has happened to the average family. Not all of us have TVs in every room (we just have 1). And internet access isn't a luxury; you need it just to look for employment in today's world. Your commentary reminds me of Reagan's commentary on the Cadillac-driving welfare queen.
Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 09, 2019 09:22PM
What might be a bit hard for you to realize, Curt, is that yours is not an "average" household in this country. You don't seem to realize how much better off you are than the "average" American household. You need to stop thinking of yourself as such.

Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 09, 2019 09:36PM
Donna,
My son just bought a huge, flat screen TV for $300. In 1955, the median household income in the U.S. was around $5,000. A B&W TV with tiny fuzzy screen would have set my parent's back about $250 (in 1955 dollars).

You tend to compare your income to your contemporaries who earn more than you. Since your wife brought up the historical comparisons of the earnings of past generations, how do your possessions and lifestyle compare to what your life would have been in generations past?

I guess I should be insulted by the Reagan reference, but it's such a non sequitur I can only chuckle.




"White power! White power!" --Demented Racist Donald Trump


Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 09, 2019 10:49PM
"...how do your possessions and lifestyle compare to what your life would have been in generations past?"

That's impossible to say. We live very modestly and have no money leftover at the end of the month. We have no savings.

Something like 30% of adults between ages 25 & 30 still live with their parents because they can't afford to support themselves. How does that compare with the situation back when we were coming of age?

There is $1.5 trillion in college tuition debt. When I attended university in the 70s, I didn't know of anyone who had to take out a tuition loan. In fact I paid for about 95% of all of my college expenses from working p/t. That can no longer be done.

People who lived during the Great Depression had many more then-modern conveniences than prior generations. Does that mean that people alive during the Great Depression still didn't suffer great hardship and that systemic changes weren't needed to ameliorate it?
Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 09, 2019 11:12PM
Curt, if every single person was required to purchase a new flat screen TV every single month, your example might be relevant. But compare it to rent, food, utilities, healthcare, gas, etc. It's going to be little comfort to someone being evicted because they can't afford their rent on their meager salary any longer that at least they have a nice modern flat screen TV to sell at a garage sale.

Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 09, 2019 11:31PM
Less than 60% of Americans are earning higher real incomes than their parents while half of Americans have less real wealth. The income figure, in my view is a two sided question. Yes somewhat more than half make a little more income. But, with the improvement at the bottom and reduction in poverty the improvement in the 40% or so of those above that level is not very significant. That is good for the bottom 20% or so but not very significant above that.

The significance is in the clear transfer of the bnefits of economic growth to the higher incomes and highest wealth owners. That inequality has reached a level that is socially dangerous.
Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 09, 2019 11:32PM
Quote
Donna
"...how do your possessions and lifestyle compare to what your life would have been in generations past?"

That's impossible to say. We live very modestly and have no money leftover at the end of the month. We have no savings.

Something like 30% of adults between ages 25 & 30 still live with their parents because they can't afford to support themselves. How does that compare with the situation back when we were coming of age?

It's not quite as much as said. See [www.pewsocialtrends.org] Bernie likes to compare our lot with that of Europe when it comes to a social safety net. Young adults in Europe with their parents---a lot.



Quote
Donna
There is $1.5 trillion in college tuition debt. When I attended university in the 70s, I didn't know of anyone who had to take out a tuition loan. In fact I paid for about 95% of all of my college expenses from working p/t. That can no longer be done.

I don't disagree that college should be more affordable. There are many ways to achieve that. It is important to understand that a four-year degree isn't necessary for everybody or a guarantee of success (as you will attest).

In your neck of the woods, to attend California State University-Long Beach, the average annual cost for in-state students (after school, state and federal aid) is $9,699. Among two year colleges in California, Ventura College, Skyline College, Santa Ana College, Moorpark College, Foothill College, De Anza College, Cypress College or Canada College all between $2600 and $5000 per year. See [www.selectsmart.com]

If it isn't happening already, I predict that there will be many more affordable online degree programs available which, for among other reasons, makes college more affordable by eliminating the need for student housing.

Quote
Donna
People who lived during the Great Depression had many more then-modern conveniences than prior generations. Does that mean that people alive during the Great Depression still didn't suffer great hardship and that systemic changes weren't needed to ameliorate it?

The only "conveniences" that most Americans had during the Depression that wasn't widely available to their parents were radios and talkies.




"White power! White power!" --Demented Racist Donald Trump


Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 09, 2019 11:57PM
Quote
Curt
It is important to understand that a four-year degree isn't necessary for everybody or a guarantee of success (as you will attest).

I was making $79K w/full benefits in 2002. It was a successful career while it lasted, and was only made possible because I had a 4-year college degree.

Quote
Curt
The only "conveniences" that most Americans had during the Depression that wasn't widely available to their parents were radios and talkies.

First of all, I said "prior generations". And I think you're purposely missing my point. In the 30s, most people had cars. All of those things cost more money than their parents, grandparents, and prior generations spent on their lifestyles.
Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 09, 2019 11:59PM
Btw, that's eye-opening about the percentage of young adults in the EU still living with their parents. So on that you make a good point.
Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 10, 2019 12:32AM
Donna,
You probably meant households not "people" had cars. In the United States, 60% of families owned a car in 1929.




"White power! White power!" --Demented Racist Donald Trump


Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 10, 2019 07:13PM
"As for the dystopian lemonade analogy, that doesn't ring true to me. I don't recall ever having a lemonade stand a kid. Maybe there was glut of curbside lemonade in our neighborhood. But I mowed lawns and shoveled snow. I sold newspaper subscriptions. I babysat. We all have to find our way in the world. We have to budget our money, live within our means and not covet our neighbors' possessions. In other words, find happiness in what we do and have." -Curt

In the lemonade stand example, the first lemonade stand and the few that started to show up soon after that one are an analogy for everything you just mentioned. We all mowed lawns or shoveled snow or whatever. We saw HELP WANTED signs on a store window, went in, and more often than not got the job. We had careers. We were able to do what we needed to do to get by with just the basics and we did it.

And back even just a few decades ago, as back in our halcyon snow-shoveling babysitting days, that was all much much more doable than it is today. Whatever the damned cost of a stupid flat screen TV is. And there were very good reasons those days were so halcyon as is pointed out in the article.

You're ignoring the whole rest of the lemonade stand analogy and how things progressed from where you left off. How everything was changing and growing and mutating and what the reasons for all that were and what the repercussions were. You're just ignoring all that part.

It was only the main theme of the whole freaking article.

Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 11, 2019 02:21AM
At my retirement, I earned double what both my parents did. My father was the only one in his generation to go to college. His father and mother never finished the 6th grade. My brother earns more than I do, but he's been in the DOD schools for about 45 years.
Re: The American Dream is Killing Us
November 11, 2019 05:32AM
So your parents made $7,500.
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