The Idealisation of the American Dream

Motley’s Emer Walsh decimates the notion that America is the land of social mobility, in a wake up call that has been long overdue.

We all love a good story about the underprivileged kid that made it big. The child that grew up poor, worked hard through school, defied all obstacles, got that college scholarship, worked some more, and got their dream job in the big city. 

That in a nutshell is called the American dream. It doesn’t matter where you start in America, because you will end up where you need to be! As long as you work hard enough for it, and make the necessary sacrifices.

But this wonderful dream of hope and success must eventually come to an end, as the time has come for the reality check alarm clock to detonate, waking up the best nation in the world from its blissful slumber. 

For a long time, it has been understood on this side of the northern hemisphere that the American dream is full of shit, but like in most instances, the US has taken a little bit longer to arrive at the same conclusion. 

Take for example, the US Commander-in-Chief and supreme leader Donald J. Trump. He has been spewing this American dream, land of the free, best nation in the world dogma for years, and republicans eat it up at every opportunity. Just last week, Marshall Trump announced his ‘American Dream Plan’ for Latino Americans, which in Trumpian English roughly translates to “You’re lucky enough that I let you into this country, now do me a favour and leave me the fuck alone before I send you back.”

To understand the futility of the American Dream as a concept, let’s look at some data. To start off, 42% of American men born in the bottom 20% of incomes stay there for their entire lives. Added to this, the income level at which you are born into is the most accurate predictor of the income level that you will end up in.

To simplify, where you are born in the US is most likely where you will die.

“Well they obviously don’t want it enough or aren’t willing to work hard for it,” I hear the GOP cry from their inherited properties. 

Firstly, ignoring the fact that ‘hard work’ cannot be empirically measured, believers in the American dream love saying this as it justifies their own position in society. We all heard the story of how Il Duce Donald made it on his own in the big city with nothing but a small loan and the certainty that he would be bailed out by his father when he inevitably fucked up, so if he could do it, why can’t you? 

Secondly, Capitalism 101 teaches us that anyone can get rich quick, but what’s frequently ignored is the big catch, not everyone can get rich. The American economy is like a game of Monopoly, there are only winners when there are losers, and it only gets interesting when someone goes bankrupt. (See Lehman Brothers, 2008).

So where does this put the American Dream? 

It puts it on the top of a pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid, you have the American population and the further up the pyramid you go, the less space available for people to stand. Once the top of the pyramid is reached, all that is left is a small, small handful of the population no more worthy than the rest, awarded what entire populations of more redistributive economies can achieve. 

America will say that this handful worked the hardest, and they wanted it the most. Hence, the American Dream lives on, to be desired by the many, yet achieved by the few.

America, wake up.