Monday, July 25, 2011

The American Dream: You can't get there from here.

Remember those films from the '50s that described what the future would be like for Americans? They predicted that mom and dad would have more time on their hands because of the wonders of technology. Dad would have more free time with the family. Mom would spend less time in the kitchen. But the authors of these errant utopian prophesies never explained how mom, dad and kids could afford to live in their "home of the future," with all its time saving gadgets and cool technological wonders.

Assuming increased productivity due to technological advances allowed Dad the luxury of spending more time with the family also assumes that Dad shared in the surging profits resulting from increased productivity. But apparently, the same authors who could envision commuting to work via jet pack never imagined a world where American corporations wouldn't share the windfalls of technology-driven efficiencies with their employees.

The fact is, corporations haven't. Even factoring in the latest recession, businesses are turning record profits. The trend over time has been upward ever since the end of the Great Depression. But not the median income of American workers. That has been stagnant for many, many years.

Redistribution of wealth is a socialist concept. So the authors of those films back in the 50s must have been socialists, right? How else could they explain the average Joe and his family living in such luxury? Not by working longer hours.

While most Americans back then certainly didn't think of themselves as socialists, they still believed in the commonwealth. They believed in sharing the wealth. They understood the concept of the greater good. They realized the true promise of E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). The people of the 1950s understood the value of investing in research and infrastructure. They benefited from the G.I. Bill, and their parents benefited from the New Deal.

Today, E Pluribus Unum has been replaced with Ego, vero, me, meae (I, Me, Mine). It signifies the death of the American Dream, which was built on the premis that together, there is nothing we can't accomplish. A rising tide no longer lifts all boats.

Maybe the Dream was always just that. Maybe it was just a cynical creation of the leadership of the time to replace religion as the opiat of the masses. The great irony of all of this is that those who have adopted Ego, Vero, Me, Meae are the ones waving the American flag with the most vigor, while they disavow the basic principles that can make the Dream a reality.

They say we don't remember most of our dreams. Maybe some day, our children won't remember this one either.

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