The view of the American dream has changed over the last century.
When the grandparents of today’s American citizens were young, students received several years of schooling. Some graduated from high school, some did not. Many worked on the family farm, and hard work was not an option. Families grew much of their own food, canned vegetables, and sewed many of their own clothes. As a society, Americans were very frugal. Credit was not easily available, and families lived within their means. Most families saved as much of their income as they could, ensuring they would be prepared for leaner times. The American dream a hundred years ago entailed being able to purchase a home of one’s own, live comfortably, and save enough to retire quietly in a 1000-square foot, three bedroom home with one bathroom.
The expectation of the American dream of today is different. Houses are bigger, cars are more extravagant and many families have two (or more) cars to every household. Technology is common, and it’s not unusual to find cell phones, internet connection, and cable television in even the poorest of households. The American view of frugality has changed, and most Americans are spending well more than they earn.
There is no doubt there are some negative factors affecting the economy at this particular point in time. The housing market is at an all-time low, and many families owe more on their homes then they are currently worth. There is a lack of affordable healthcare, and the unemployment rate is higher than it has been since President Carter has been in office. The federal deficit is exploding, there is poor leadership in Congress, and the United States continues to accrue hefty deficits each year.
However, America is and continues to be the greatest country on earth. There is a stable government, where all citizens are able to voice their opinions and vote for their leaders. Families have religious freedom and are able to express their beliefs publicly. Being poor in America, while difficult, is certainly of a much higher standard than being impoverished in a third-world country. An infrastructure of clean water, governmental assistance, police and fire protection, and roadways are shared by all. Every citizen has access to education and safe food. And yes, there is access to wealth.
The American dream continues to exist. Are there obstacles to overcome? Yes. Can the road to success by difficult? Yes. Will every person have the same amount of wealth? No. But success and prosperity in America are still possible.
Families who take responsibility to live within their means, save, educate themselves, and work hard will see success. No matter what way you look at it, America remains a land of opportunity.