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The Fading American Dream

In: English and Literature

Submitted By baseballgirl125
Words 1281
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The Unachievable American Dream
One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, and one of the most iconic civil rights activists in our countries history, Martin Luther King Jr., both believed in equality for all. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” ( 327). Since then, America has become the number one country for achieving life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, we know this better as the American Dream. The American Dream is something that every American strives for. Immigrants from other countries come here and become American citizens with the hope of someday achieving their ideal American Dream. We all design and carry this image in our heads of our own American Dream. The job we hope to have and the pleasant family we hope to build and raise in our perfect ideal homes, are all images that come to mind when thinking of the American Dream. Most of us, every day of our lives, are doing the best we can. We try to make this dream become a reality, but the reality of this dream is that it’s getting harder and harder to reach; due to unemployment, poverty, and our countries overall economic state.
Over the past few years the country’s economy has been in a downward spiral and we’ve reached an economic recession. Poverty and unemployment rates amongst United States citizens have sky rocketed. According to the most recent statistics provided by the US Census Bureau 33 million families, 9 million individuals, and about 15 million children are living in poverty. When those statistics are totaled up there are roughly 54 million people living in poverty and that doesn’t even include the number of homeless people that we have living in America. How could these people ever achieve their idea of the American Dream? As Mike Rose states in his essay What College Can Mean to the Other America, “the poor are drifting further into the dark underbelly of American capitalism” (195). Once they’re there it’s almost impossible to crawl out of and the poor people who already are there, are falling deeper into the hole.
The truth of the matter is that the American Dream in today’s society is almost impossible to achieve. Many people are unemployed and are just hardly getting by. They rely on state or government benefits such as the welfare system in order to survive. The welfare system assist people who make less than 12,000 a year so that they can buy food and other basic needs that are necessary to sustain life. Others, bounce around from job to job and don’t maintain a steady income and even people with fulltime jobs who attend work five days a week still struggle to stay afloat. On the welfare system, they tell you when and how much you can eat and even tell you what you can buy. I don’t think anybody on the welfare system is living out their American Dream; their being told how to live and are rationed on what they live off. Up to date statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau tell us that currently in the United States 7.4 percent of our population is unemployed. They have no jobs and the only income they’re getting is from state or government assistance, which doesn’t amount to much. For these people it is highly unlikely that they will ever reach their goal in life or the ideal American Dream.
Unfortunately, I have friends and family are currently living off of the welfare system and other government benefits. I’ve seen firsthand how little they are receiving. It’s certainly not anyone’s idea of an American Dream. They are told what they can buy and most of the time it’s very specific. They can only by a certain quantity of certain items and many times it has to also be a specific brand which usually consist of lower end products. The little that they buy for that month has to last them till their eligible for food stamps again the next month. Many times they run out of food two to three weeks after buying it at the beginning of the month which leaves them with very little to nothing to eat for the next week or two. I don’t know about you, but last time I thought about my ideal American Dream it didn’t involve having a limited food source.
As stated by the United States Census Bureau a person is above the poverty threshold (minimum level of income in order to live) if an individual can survive off of an annual income of 12,000 dollars, two people should be able to live off of 15,000 dollars, three people 18,000 dollars, and a four person family should be able to live off 24,000 dollars a year. The government is crazy to think that people could really live off these numbers. I myself come from a five person family. Together, my parents make five times as much as the government thinks a four person family should be living off; and my parents still struggle to get by. The American dream is certainly not achievable if abided by the numbers above.
On top of all of that, our country has young adults trying to achieve the American Dream by attending college or trade schools. Unfortunately, the government is making it impossible for them to achieve their dream. Rose “spent plenty of time at a community college and saw the effects on young educated people who drift in and out of low-pay, dead end jobs. Sixty percent of students at the college were on financial aid” (195). Financial aid provides a great opportunity for these young adults to better themselves “but right at the point opportunity is offered it is being threatened by budget cuts in education and social services” (196). They’re the future of our nation and can’t even get the support they need to pay for school. How do you think our future nation will operate without educated people?
Overall, looking at the statistics and the state that our country is in; achieving the American Dream in today’s society is highly unlikely. People have a tremendous amount of trouble finding and keeping jobs. If they are lucky and do find a job its usually minimum wage which is not enough to live an ideal lifestyle. The welfare system is on overload and no one is achieving their American Dream living off of it. The government’s idea of what people should be able to live off of is absolutely absurd. Then there are the young adults who are the future of our country. They go to school and further their education so they can start paving the way to their American Dream, just in time for the government to cut spending and inhibit them from going anywhere. As Paul Krugman said in his essay, The Death of Heratio Alger “…. Goodbye American Dream” (390). The facts don’t lie. The idea of achieving the American Dream in today’s society is long gone! People in today’s day and age should be more concerned about paying their next bill or affording their next meal; they shouldn’t be thinking about achieving their “perfect” American Dream, it’s just not possible to obtain because of the economic state that our country is in. Maybe one day, in the near future, when our country is able to get back on its feet, the ideal American Dream will be reborn, but for now it remains out of reach.

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