The American dream seems to be out of reach for more and more people these days. Good-paying manufacturing jobs are hard to find, companies have moved a lot of jobs overseas, and the gap between the rich and the poor has obviously grown wide. In a road trip from California to Oklahoma and back, writer Susan Sward stopped and interviewed many people who live paycheck to paycheck. In her story “Losing their grip on the American dream” (Forum, Dec. 14), she found the American dream was “badly battered.”
In last Sunday’s Conversation, we asked readers: What are obstacles that you see preventing many people from achieving the American dream?
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Minimum wage not the answer
Folks talk about raising the minimum wage as though it is some sort of panacea for wage inequality. It’s not. Three things are holding down middle-class wages:
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1. Uncomfortable as it may sound, labor is a commodity like any other and thus subject to the law of supply and demand. As unemployment shrinks, wages will rise. There are already some signs that this is occurring in the U.S. Wages invariably lag in a recovery.
2. Technology has killed off many blue-collar and, perhaps more notably, white-collar jobs. This is not going to change. In fact, it will probably increase even more over time. Been to a chain restaurant recently with electronic ordering and bill payment on a screen at your table? What do you suppose this does to the demand for wait staff?
3. Manufacturers increasingly are selling to a global market. With a solid transportation network, goods can be produced anywhere the business climate is supportive.
Turning burger-flipping into the new middle-class job is not the answer. It’s a bit more complex than that.
Roy W. Hecteman, El Dorado Hills
The dream is lost
The American dream is lost unless we can find somebody like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was a traitor to his economic and social class.
FDR was rich. He needed to be if he was to be competitive in his first election. However, he looked at what the country needed in a different way from the rest of his class. The result was the foundation of what some now call the welfare state that gradually ended the Great Depression and set an example for American politics and society that lasted until Ronald Reagan.
It wasn’t all egalitarian, of course. It assumed people wanted to work and was done at a time when the U.S. was the manufacturing powerhouse of the world. We also had high tariff walls to keep industry here. And the 1 percent didn’t lose; they just didn’t gain as much.
I’m not sure what can be done short of economic war to change things. Such a war, internally or externally, would probably end the country. However, clearly what we have now isn’t working for the vast majority of U.S. citizens.
Mike Brady, Folsom
Nicole Lee – 1. Taxes placed on small businesses.
2. Large corporations buying out everything.
3. The cost of tuition.
4. The poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer.
5. Loss of God in our schools and community.
Barry Schroeder – First and foremost is the lack of good-paying jobs because they all went offshore. And it was our government that gave those companies huge incentives to move manufacturing offshore. Bring the jobs back, and things will get better.
Rafael A. Prado – People can point to lack of good-paying jobs and jobs going offshore as reasons for people being unable to achieve the American dream. However, I believe the reasons are much deeper than the latter. First, there’s a lack of ingenuity and risk taking in people to create their own jobs. Second, there’s a lack of flexibility by people to get retrained in fields where more jobs are plentiful (health care, science-related fields, technology, etc.). Third, there are too many young people who believe that they should be able to find good-paying jobs with degrees in film, art history, psychology, etc. Young people need to be taught that the main reason to get a degree is to be marketable in the workforce. Fourth, there’s a lack of work ethic among many Americans. Fifth, the breakdown of the family is a major cause of poverty in our nation. There are way too many children being raised in single-parent homes. Broken homes have been known to cause lack of motivation to study, learn and work among our youths. Finally, our K-12 public school districts are failing to provide young people the needed skills to be successful in life.
Ulla Camp – We were never told or promised that we would own the American dream. We were told that with hard work and putting money into savings, it might be possible to own a piece of the dream down the road. Nobody ever told us that it would be handed to us.
Kristine Mathews Vega – From our household perspective, it’s the ever increasing cost of everyday things. Yes, taxes and fees on purchases bite into our one-income family’s expenses, but more so the grocery costs, health, car, homeowner’s and life insurance increases every year. A lot of money that was coming home, and now it goes toward our share of the company health insurance.