Adonis Diaries

A financial Commodified Myth? The American Dream

Posted on: May 7, 2016

A Commodified Myth?  The American Dream

According to the findings of a Marist Poll commissioned by Boston PBS station WGBH earlier this year, “The American Dream [is] still alive, but … a majority of U.S. residents believe the American middle class is just a vestige of the past.” That WGBH summary of the poll notes:

While 58% [of parents] think their children will be better off than they are now, about one-third, 33%, say their children will be in a worse position.

The picture becomes bleaker when the focus shifts to the future of America’s youth, in general.

Nearly half of residents, 48%, believe most children in the United States will grow up to be worse off than their parents while 43% say children, overall, will be better off….

“The American Dream” is nothing more than an advertising slogan to sustain the oligarchy and elect opportunistic politicians, says Mark Karlin.

We must work to transform “the American Dream” into a deepening of real values — to instill equity, respect and justice into the moral fabric of our nation.
truth-out.org|By Mark Karlin

A news release that I received on April 5 from a publicist for WGBH put it more bluntly:

A majority of U.S. residents believe the American middle class is just a vestige of the past, according to an Exclusive Point Taken-Marist Poll, commissioned by WGBH Boston for its new late-night, multi-platform PBS debate series Point Taken.

But, despite a pessimistic view about the viability of the American middle class, most adults nationally 69% think the American Dream is attainable for themselves. Although fewer, many think it is in reach for other Americans, 58%, as well.

Given the nation’s radical and growing income inequality, the perceptions of those surveyed in the poll [as shown in charts]  appear rosier than the reality of the economic chasm in the US.

The poll raises the question about how the hope of achieving an economic dream can defy economic data, given that most of those polled thought the middle class was dying.

Where will the 69 percent of those who believe that “the American Dream” is attainable end up? That’s 69 percent too many people to squeeze into the 1 percent.

This gap may be in large part due to the fact that “the American Dream” is never defined in the poll, as reported by WGBH.

That lack of definition is not unusual: The political, media and cultural concept of an “American Dream” is a loaded, yet amorphous, phrase. It exists as a manipulable perception, and does not carry concrete details that make it tangible.

Politicians love to promise to restore “the American Dream,” but what exactly are they committing themselves to?

For the most part, “the American Dream” has come to be associated with children rising to a higher economic level and standard of living than their parents.

This is a concept reinforced by the media and during every round of elections. “The American Dream” as a cultural cliché is embedded into the assumption of an economy that continues to grow without end.

In short, it’s a fantasy, particularly in an economy that has created a Grand Canyon between the Trumps and Kochs of the world and the rest of us — an economy in which unrestrained consumption consumes the world through global warming.

To promise to restore “the American Dream” is disingenuous. The phrase may be tantalizing to many in economic need; it is aimed at making “economic opportunity” appear inexhaustible.

Yet in reality, it is nothing more than an advertising slogan to sustain the oligarchy and elect opportunistic politicians.

Bernie Sanders has been an exception. He has focused on economic justice and a level playing field, not on a dream.

Politicians who want to actually have an impact on poverty should be — like Sanders, to some extent — promising a restructuring of the current economic system.

It is time to put the financial commodification of “the American Dream” to rest. It is time to transform the connotation of “the American Dream” into the reality of fulfilled lives, embracing diversity, equal justice and involved communities.

The struggle for economic fairness must continue at a robust pace.

Yet simultaneously, we must work to transform “the American Dream” into a deepening of real values — to instill equity, respect and justice into the moral fabric of our nation.

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