The American Dream
What is the American Dream? Traditionally, it has meant a higher standard of living, owning a home and an automobile, and getting a good education. The term “American Dream” was first used in 1932 by James Truslow Adams, who wrote The Epic of America to respond to Theodore Dreiser’s novel, An American Tragedy. The term “American Dream” today refers to a range of things, including financial stability and personal fulfillment as well as a higher standard in living.
It all depends on what definition you use of “the American dream”. Historically, the phrase “American dream” has been the domain of conservatives, who argue for more freedom in government, and people on the left, who argue for universal health care. However, this is not true today. The phrase has been used by both sides of each political spectrum. This is a healthy way to think about the American dream – history is often a liberating tool.
The American dream has been misunderstood and misused. Although it has become synonymous with upward mobility and economic success in modern times, it was historically a reference to the idealism of America’s great experiment. Hence, many people interpret the Capitol riot as an attack on “the American dream,” which is far from true. In fact, the riot was motivated less by economic grievances than by a political attack on the democratic process.
The American dream is no longer the dream of many Americans. Today, there are more people with less than one million dollars in liquid assets, and the wealth gap has widening rifts between rich and poor. The index of the American Dream is now at 50% for babies born in 1980. Only half of these babies earn the same as their parents. In addition, industrial Midwestern states are increasingly backward, with lower per capita income than the national average. The American dream cannot be revived in this environment unless everyone gets something for nothing and everyone has some liquid assets.
Although the American dream can be defined in many ways, one thing remains constant: the desire to live a high standard. In the 1930s, the first part of the American dream to receive government aid was home ownership. In a similar fashion, the Hoover administration used the model used during World War I to help farmers. The Roosevelt administration extended government intervention to banks making residential mortgages. Many banks collapsed during the Great Depression. Congress created laws and agencies to protect the market for mortgages.
Individual merit is still a key factor in determining social progress. In the United States, a national poll conducted by The New York Times in 2005 found that Americans remain optimistic about their futures and the opportunities that await them. They believe hard work and perseverance will eventually pay off. But while these changes have been beneficial, the results are mixed. While the American Dream may still exist, the distribution of wealth and opportunity in the country is far from equal.