With a disappearing middle class and high levels of poverty, is the American Dream still a thing?

In 1931, James Truslow Adams created the term American Dream in his book The Epic of America. Adams used the term to describe the beliefs, religious promises, as well as the political and social expectations of the American people.

The American Dream has become a very widespread term to describe the typical “American Way of Life.” The American Dream represents a set of individual standards which is why today there is no acceptable definition of the term.

For some Americans, the American Dream is heavily connected to supreme wealth and the ability to succeed if one tries hard enough. For the other half of America, it is beyond materialism and about fulfilling their dreams in life.

To make the American Dream work, all social groups must unite. The American Dream stretches out to everybody. The problem is many have become distrustful due to goals not reached and low expectations.

In the 21th century, the dream is on its death bed. The belief that the American Dream is dead has been noted, and many Americans have mourned its passing, Politicians have promised the resurrection of the dream of late and many voters have listened to the call of the nontraditional candidates like Sanders and Trump for a shimmer of hope.

It’s the vote of the disillusioned willing to support them because they no longer believe the words of traditional candidates. The fact is wages have been stagnant. American workers have to survive in a world run by the 1% or die trying to achieve stability.

Stagnant wages and unsteady employment is associated with unpredictable economy mobility and wealth inequality. The rich Americans receive an unimaginable share of income while the mobility of the lower middle class disappears into the background.

Stagnant wages make it hard for the common man to pay for food, housing and every day necessities of life. For example, the cost of housing is on the rise faster than a worker’s standard income.

It becomes more of a gloomy perspective when Americans are at the end of their years, nearing retirement. At least 31 percent of people who have not yet retired will have no savings or pension by the time they reach retirement age.

All the blame goes to the decisions made by the usual suspects – politicians and the President. Americans are paranoid about their survival in the economy. All the wealth starts at the top and belongs to the rich, yet the lower and middle income earners try to make a living hunting spare change in their couches.

The downward spiral is the new American Dream because the forward movement is stagnant. But even with all the fear and loathing berating many Americans, there is still optimism deep within the hearts of the millennial generation.

An Elite Daily article, written by Zoe Zorka, places the generation of millennials on a pedestal about how millennials have made the dream attainable again. In her article, she states:

“Sure, we all want money, but a more precious commodity than money is personal freedom and the choice to live life on our own terms. Our generation isn’t much different than the Internet, which played a role in raising us. We download information the same way we capitalize on the opportunities around us. On the flip side, we also upload and contribute, in hopes that we will give more back to the world than we took from it. As a whole, we don’t want our elders to feel sorry for us because we aren’t as financially well-off as they may have been at our age. I would feel sorry for them because they didn’t have the freedoms and access to the world we have, but that goes against the true spirit of the vision, which is that everyone can embrace the American Dream.”

I agree that personal freedom is a fulfillment we all should strive to achieve. Except the realities of life punches you in the face and doesn’t ease up. Of course it’s fine to shoot for your own version of the American Dream, but not all dreams come true.

In spite of it, the American Dream might still have some positive aspects; the American Dream is what you make it—damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


  1. “American workers have to survive in a world run by the 1% or die trying to achieve stability.”<–poor article. The 1% didn't do this. American workers themselves did this by mostly voting Republican for the last 50 years

    • Gensmahaut, that may be true, but in 2008 73% of those who earned less than $15,000, 60% of those who earned between $15,000 and $30,000, and 55% of those who earned between $30,000 and $50,000 voted for Obama. The question of why poor people vote Republican is not simply an issue of income but primarily race and partly region and gender.Poor people may be more likely to vote Democrat; poor white people are not. In 2008 McCain won a slim majority (51%) of white Americans who earn less than $50,000, while Obama won a whopping majority of non-whites in the same category (86%). Moreover some people, despite being poor, legitimately believe in free market and small government, even if it doesn’t benefit them in precisely the same way that wealthy people may favor greater government intervention even if it doesn’t benefit them.In fact, the truly shocking thing about income and voting patterns in the US isn’t the number of poor people who vote Republican but the number who don’t vote at all. Inequality in income is intimately related to inequality in turnout. In 2008, 41% of voters who earn less than $10,000 voted; among those who earn more than $150,000 the figure was 78%. One can only assume that many poor people do not feel they have anyone to vote for.

  2. The American dream died the day Ronald Reagan was elected. His cutting of taxes on the 1% to unprecedented low levels that had not been see since the days BEFORE the IRS, and his attack on the union workers of America is 99% to blame.
    Then somewhere along the line our Social Security funds became a slush fund for these Reagan tax breaks and it has been downhill ever since.
    We are in desperate need of a political revolution to restore these top tax rates, close tax loopholes, make stashing money in hidden accounts illegal, get the lobbyist money out of our elections (law “suggesting” ALEC comes to mind immediately) and cutting our bloated military budget by at least 50%.
    Then and only then will we begin to live up to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to have a country where equality is not a dream, the pursuit of happiness is a real thing and working people and the middle class are doing more than just surviving.

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