Posted on December 11, 2007, Printed on December 11, 2007
Fewer than one percent of Americans are millionaires, but almost one in three believe they'll end up among that group at some point.(Ed.: delusional/propagandized White Americans persist in believing their race provides them no inherent advantage in life, too, and that their successes, such as they are, are the result solely of their efforts and 'some luck.')The belief that our chance of moving up the economic ladder is limited only by our innate abilities and our appetite for hard work is almost universal in the United States. When you define the "American Dream" as the ability of working-class families to afford a decent life -- to put their kids through school, have access to quality healthcare and a secure retirement -- most will tell you it simply doesn't exist anymore. (Ed.: This is a crucial distinction, between the hard realities of post-industrial survival, to say nothing of comfort, in the metrics outlined above, compared with the 'pie-in-the-sky' manifested in what follows:In stark contrast, when you define it according to mobility, the picture is radically different; according to a study of public opinion in 25 rich countries, Americans are almost twice as likely to believe that "people get rewarded for intelligence and skill" than working people in other advanced economies (PDF). At the same time, fewer than one in five say that coming from a wealthy family is "essential" or "very important" to getting ahead -- significantly lower than the 25-country average.
It's impossible to overstate the impact that has on our policy debates. Americans are less than half as likely as people in other advanced economies to believe that it's "the responsibility of government to reduce differences in income." Working Americans are parties to a unique social contract: They give up much of the economic security that citizens of other wealthy countries take for granted in exchange for a more "dynamic," meritorious economy that offers opportunity that's limited only by their own desire to get ahead. Of course, it's never explicitly stated, and most of us don't know about the deal, but it's reinforced all the time in our economic discourse.(Ed.: Propaganda Here, tread carefully. "They
But new research suggests the United States' much-ballyhooed upward mobility is a myth, and one that's slipping further from reality with each new generation. On average, younger Americans are not doing better than their parents did, it's harder to move up the economic ladder in the United States than it is in a number of other wealthy countries, and a person in today's work force is as likely to experience downward mobility as he or she is to move up.Talk about something you're never gonna see on the Tube.
Moreover, the single greatest predictor of how much an American will earn is how much their parents make. In short, the United States, contrary to popular belief, is not a true meritocracy, and the American worker is getting a bum deal, the worst of both worlds. Not only is a significant portion of the middle class hanging on by the narrowest of threads, not only do fewer working people have secure retirements to look forward to, not only are nearly one in seven Americans uninsured, but working people also enjoy less opportunity to pull themselves up by their bootstraps than those in a number of other advanced economies.