Thursday, July 29, 2010

American Dream Harder Than Ever To Attain

A recent piece in the New York Times, by writer Louis Uchitelle, highlights the difficulties faced by the millennial generation, also called Generation Y. But it hasn't been much better for my generation (Generation X).

From the piece American Dream Is Elusive for New Generation:

The Great Depression damaged the self-confidence of the young, and that is beginning to happen now, according to pollsters, sociologists and economists. Young men in particular lost a sense of direction, Glen H. Elder Jr., a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, found in his study, “Children of the Great Depression.” In some cases they were forced into work they did not want — the issue for Scott Nicholson.

Military service in World War II, along with the G.I. Bill and a booming economy, restored well-being; by the 1970s, when Mr. Elder did his retrospective study, the hardships of the Depression were more a memory than an open sore. “They came out of the war with purpose in their lives, and by age 40 most of them were doing well,” he said, speaking of his study in a recent interview.

The outlook this time is not so clear. Starved for jobs at adequate pay, the millennials tend to seek refuge in college and in the military and to put off marriage and child-bearing. Those who are working often stay with the jobs they have rather than jump to better paying but less secure ones, as young people seeking advancement normally do. And they are increasingly willing to forgo raises, or to settle for small ones.

Read the full New York Times report.


Worse for Black Americans

See reports on Black poverty and the struggle with recession from the BBC and MSNBC. The Loop also has a good piece on childhood poverty from last year.

I gave up on the American Dream some years ago. Now I am just seeking survival. I realized the Dream had become an empty slogan.... that the chances of achieving it were slim to none. I almost feel as if I have been lied to all this time. I started to feel this way at age 27 or 28, when I had begun to run-in-place. I just wasn't achieving, even though I was working everyday and studying hard. The last 5-10 years pretty much confirmed the doubts going through my mind at the time.

Now I am about $80,000.00 in debt with no prospects for meaningful employment. The chances that I will be able to pay this money back is pretty close to zero. Over the last year I have been engaging in all sorts of maneuvers (including going back to school and making matters worse with more debt) to keep creditors at bay just a little while longer. But at some point in the next year or two, I will be looking at default. Once I run out of options and default, I will be ineligible for many....well.... basically all jobs in the Government sector...where I want to work. American Dream? Where?

And the thought of finding a mate, developing relationships, and starting a family have been out of the question. Not even an option for me.... never has been. Men, of course, are damn near exclusively defined by what they much money they earn, their ability to support a family, yadda yadda yadda. This is how women rate men. This is especially the case in the U.S., where women are shallow & materialistic to the extreme.

If a man can't meet certain professional/financial expectations...if you don't have a job with a respectable salary, if you can't support a family.... then you aren't considered a man at all. Chances for actually attracting a decent mate under such circumstances are remote. So in the last decade (really more than that) I have actually never bothered to try with any serious effort. All due to this elusive "American Dream".... trying to hold out for a meaningful job opportunity. The lost decade has really worn me down.

(btw... I think one of the next bubbles to pop will be student students who leave college end up like me... stuck in BS service jobs earning less than $30,000 a year....or can't find work at all).

Needless to say I really hate my life...and the prospects for the future are bleak. With the incompetence of the Obama Administration....not having a clue of what the Hell to do to stimulate the economy...and with all the wars, the misguided foreign policy, and the financial mess (global and personal), I believe things will get worse.

An Xavier University survey seems to support my angst about the future. From the Atlantic:

When asked if it is now harder or easier to attain "the American Dream" than it was for their parents' generation, 60 percent of Xavier's 1,022 respondents said it's getting harder; 68 percent, meanwhile, said it will be even harder for their children than it is for them.

The poll was conducted Feb. 14-21 by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) for Xavier's Institute for Politics and the American Dream, reaching respondents over 18 years old via land lines and cell phones. Margin of error was +/-3.1 percent. Xavier plans to release a similar poll every year.

Even as people think it's getting harder to achieve the dream, Xavier found, they still believe--more or less--that it's possible with hard work: 35 percent said the American dream is "entirely" dependent on hard work, while 53 percent said it's roughly an even mix of hard work and good luck/circumstances. And 67 percent think they can achieve it in their lifetimes.

Fifty-eight percent, meanwhile, said America itself is in decline.
I actually am a little more pessimistic about the "hard work" theme in the Xavier survey, because even with hard work, the Dream seems out of reach. And more important than that was the belief by the majority of respondents that the U.S. was in decline. (Something I have been saying for years).

Read the summary of the Xavier University survey conducted earlier this year. See pdf.

Related Links

The End of the American Dream - Working Harder, Falling Further Behind, by Lee Sustar

Is The American Dream Possible for Most Anymore? (Discussions w/ Barbara Ehrenreich).

Impact of Corporate Based Economy (some links may be dead).

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