There’s a great article over at Alternet called “Americans Don’t Believe in the American Dream.” It’s worth checking out. Here’s a short excerpt which drives home its main point:
The American Dream is Dead, gone along with the era of good union jobs, comprehensive employer benefits and real upward mobility, and most working people are fully aware of the fact. That's the takeaway from the latest installment of the American Dream Survey, a study of working Americans' views of the political-economy released in late September.
The Alternet article laments the death of the American Dream—what now? What should be done about it? What does “doing something about it” mean in the context of a rapidly deindustrializing economy, a widening inequality between social classes, and job insecurity?
In the context of politics does that mean voting for Democrats in elections? Does that mean voting for the “right” kind of Democrats over “wrong” kinds? Does that mean reviving the labor movement and working through unions to advocate for better working conditions, pay and benefits? Other than getting all worked up, what can ordinary people do?
I am increasingly intrigued by unconventional solutions to inequality being put forth by a new generation of activist voices—in particular, African American conservatives. For them, the key to competing in a global economy is to play the capitalist game right back—but for the benefit of your population. If your population is being left behind, why not start your own businesses and corporations? Why not circulate the money within your community and help it develop jobs and growth and to keep the benefits circulating within that sphere? This is what successful ethnic minorities such as Jews, Korean-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Chinese-Americans have done. Why not emulate them?
I won’t get in anyone’s way if they want to start their own business or if they want to play the capitalist game for the benefit of their community. I see the validity of the conservative argument where everybody will have a chance to rise up socially and economically if the population were to invest in their own communities and have the wealth circulating among themselves so that everybody benefits. If that is what floats your boat then I say more power. I will not stand in your way. I’m all for economic empowerment.
But what does that mean for the rest of us? Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone and not everybody is inclined to aspire to be a business owner. In the context of an America that is rapidly becoming polarized socially and economically one logical avenue to empowerment to workers appears to be through their sheer numbers and potential influence as voters and as citizens. This means political empowerment.
I make it no secret where I stand on this issue: I favor political empowerment for working and middle class people along class lines. And I see no contradiction between advocating for political empowerment along class lines for people like me and those who wish to gain economic empowerment through establishing their own businesses within their communities.
The real question is: once you have political empowerment—what then? What types of issues and policies will you advocate? If you are suspicious of those who claim they represent the “little guy” on ideological grounds, then this is a fair question to ask. I come from the point of view of being one of the “little guys” who senses there is something deeply wrong with inequality in American society and would like it to change. How to go about doing it? Let's talk.