The American Lie

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Americans are sold on the idea of the "American Dream" almost from the time that they can talk.  You are led to believe that if you stay in school, get good grades, stay out of trouble and achieve some kind of post secondary degree the good life is there for the taking.

 

The bar for the American Dream continually gets raised.  For the 20-25 years following WW2 having a high school diploma and no criminal record was the ticket.  Men (for the most part) following high school graduation could go down to one of their town's factories, mines or stores and become part of the growing middle class.  They'd marry their sweetheart and start a family.  Women if they worked often worked part time.  Growing up in the 60s and 70s all of my cafeteria workers, school bus drivers and school secretaries were women looking to get out of the house for several hours a day, make a bit of money, be able to socialize with others and escape the drudgery of housework.

 

By the time I graduated high school in 1977 the bar had been raised.  If we wanted the life of our parents, or better, the college degree was now required.  So I like many of my graduating class of over 700 at Northeast High in Pasadena, MD trooped off to college confident in the belief the degree we would receive in four years would be that ticket to the good life.  And for a little while it was.

 

Then came the late 80s and 90s and the four year degree just no longer cut it.  Wanted the good life?  Now one must get a Master's Degree to obtain the American Dream.  So in 1992 myself like millions of others like me enrolled part time (along with full time students just out of undergraduate) in an MBA program.  I attended the very respected business school at University of Maryland and by 1996 obtained that herald MBA.  Surely I was in the driver's seat to the good life.

 

Wrong.  Fast forward to 2013.  I get laid off like many my age.  The undergraduate degree, the MBA, the years of experience.  Good enough?  Nope.  Now you need a STEM degree from a "prestigious university" for that American Dream. And by the way, being born rich with connections is a big advantage.  It took me five years of struggling now I'm finally on the road but for me unfortunately nearing retirement age.  In other words, the American Dream for me and many others has been a never ending, unobtainable goal.

 

So during the span of 50 years the bar to the good life, or the American Dream went from having a high school diploma and no criminal record to having some fancy "technology" degree from some big name university and hopefully connections from Mom and Dad.  You don't Chelsea Clinton every spent a nanosecond of her life combing through the job postings on LinkedIn or Indeed praying that just one of those resumes sent might get an invitation for an interview.

 

Who sets the bar?  The public, private and educational elites. They are the ones that love to lecture as youngsters on what will be needed to compete for the American Dream.  Ordinary Americans understandably are wondering when do the elites stop moving the goal post?  The elites are seen as the bold face liars they really are.  Its just like the lottery, a commercial showing the overjoyed winners when in reality most are just chumps and suckers ponying up $10 for nothing.

 

As "good jobs" become more elusive and exclusive our economy has replaced them with low wage service sector jobs.  But trying living on $15 an hour, particularly if you have thousands in student loan and credit card debt.  Not surprisingly certain groups get left out in the cold.  Young people with little work experience, even with bachelors and masters degrees, older workers deemed too unreliable and unwilling to take on new learning, those with no more than a high school diploma, etc.  

 

Now the scary part.  Its going to get far, far worse.  The bar will continue to rise.  Those crummy service sector jobs that allow a person to hobble together an existence usually with the help of state assistance are going to either become economically unviable or replaced by technology.  Retail clerks will be replaced by kiosks.  Customer service reps by artificial intelligence.  Ditto accounting clerks, security guards and assemblers.  You get the picture.

 

Which leads us to the contemporary picture.  Mucho pissed off Americans looking to hang the elite class that has betrayed them.  Enter HRC and Donald Trump.  Clinton is a walking model of elitism. Trump on the other hand may be brash, evasive, crude and maybe a bit hateful but despite his wealth he is anti elite. In fact, he thoroughly enjoys poking them in their eyes.  Loves making fun of them.  Telling stories about them whether true, somewhat true and/or false, or totally false.

 

Should we be surprised he wins the election accomplished by taking votes in states that have been harm the most from this constant raising of the bar for the American Dream.  Well the elites are shocked because they've not gotten the fact that the emperor has no clothes.  More so, they don't want to face up this reality.

 

The elections of 2020 and 2024 will as 2016 be able elitism and historical protocol against a new breed that rejects all that has been established mantra.  The fight for what should be the American Dream will be in the balance.  But the fight will ascend to a new level.  Yes, it will be ugly.  The elitism will fight to hold on while the insurgency will battle for recognition.  It will be Ivy League against Rugby League.  It might be just the world's greatest show on Earth.  What will remain will be scorched Earth.

Comments

Ryan Messano Added Dec 4, 2018 - 11:26am
You just don't get it, George.  You can get anything you want in America, if you are willing to sacrifice for it.  That means virtue.  You think you get anything without virtue.  Doesn't work like that.  Stop complaining, live virtuously, and you'll be what you once could have been. 
Bill H. Added Dec 4, 2018 - 12:54pm
 
The American Dream has been sold off to the top 1%.
Americans are now being used to fulfill their dreams and wishes.
Stephen Hunter Added Dec 4, 2018 - 1:28pm
George this is really a sad story, and is reflective of so many caught up in this 'Nightmare'. The goalposts for this game were set in a time when things were different. And you are correct things will never return to the 50's. However many try and find something or someone to blame, and thus the attraction of Trump, who has masterfully harnessed this frustration. 
 
George N Romey Added Dec 4, 2018 - 1:42pm
I didn't flush out the role of technology. To be successful and achieve that ever elusive dream will mean one must be able to configure technology whether in a factory or in an office. I'm talking something well more than being able to use a smart phone.
 
Few Americans will get those skills and those that do will do so because they have the connections afforded by wealth.  We are headed towards a society in which 10% perhaps 15% will live very well and everyone else will be the working poor or just the plain old down and out poor.  Just like our neighbors to the south in South America. That's our future.  All small rich elite class, an even smaller middle class centered around major city centers and mostly the downtrodden.
Jeff Michka Added Dec 4, 2018 - 6:01pm
Seems the ol stock market is having shit-fits over what Geeho wants more than life:  A failed economy where people can really suffer, as long as it isn't Geeho, the teary eyed "brilliant" writer on WB.  Geeho like talking about pending economic disaster, and he may even be right, but Geeho never mentions anything that would change shit.  Which lies, Geeho?  The "American dream" lie, or yours?
Cullen Kehoe Added Dec 4, 2018 - 7:03pm
George is 100% right. It dawned on my while I was in university about 20 years ago (with a lot of advice from my father) that there were a handful of careers that offered a nice, middle class life. The rest of the people were completely wasting their time. (These were: I.T. developer, nurse, engineer, accountant, and to a lesser degree teacher.)
 
Various non-doctor jobs in the medical field are good middle class jobs too: physical therapist, pharmacist, etc...
 
If you're in one of those, you are going to be okay. If not, .....all bets are off. Your degree doesn't mean squat. 
 
(Note: my dad got out of university in 1972 with a goofy degree in Social Science and he experienced this in the 70's--the oil shock, bad economy, high interest rates, etc... Couldn't get a proper job. Bounced around for years in insurance sales, door to door sales.
 
Finally he had to go to a technical school to get trained in I.T.--mainframe programming--and still struggled for a year to get hired by a company. Somebody he knew had to help him out--total nepotism, favortism got his foot in the door.) 
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 4, 2018 - 7:08pm
Excellent essay George. When I was finishing my business degree, we were constantly bombarded with lectures on how an MBA was the ticket. Career wise, a bachelor's degree is now the equivalent of a high school diploma, while the rich contain the professions and hold the keys that they usually only unlock for their legacies. Truly sad.
Cullen Kehoe Added Dec 4, 2018 - 7:13pm
I also think it's a travesty that the 2008 financial crisis (that America's elites caused) resulted in a "lost" decade of an entire generation that has barely been able to move out of their parent's house, let alone get married, buy a house, and have some kids. 

(Note: women are programmed not to want to marry 'poor' guys who live with their parents and have no money. They might date them short term, sleep with them, but they often don't want to marry them.
 
They've even studied this that the when the economy goes badly, for up to a decade, the birthrate and marriage rates plummet. And the when the economy goes well, marriage rates and birth rates go up.)
 
This America's elites: Kill the economy. Get bailed out. And in the aftermath lay off the regular folks. Money is failing down from heaven on you and you hoard it or invest it in Asia, and have the perfect "I feel your pain" pitch man, Obama, to placate the natives. 
 
If you didn't realize it before, it's every man for himself. You don't have to 'beggar your neighbor' but if you think politicians, Hollywood folks, university professors, Wall Street folks, (any other elites you can think of) give a toss about you, you're wrong. 
 
The folks in the Midwest appear to have gotten the message and voted for Trump as a grenade into the entire system. 
Cullen Kehoe Added Dec 4, 2018 - 7:15pm
As George hinted, many are predicting it's only going to get worse as the 'robot revolution' ejects many millions from their middle class jobs (taken over by software). 
Even A Broken Clock Added Dec 4, 2018 - 7:52pm
George - let me share a personal story about a young entrepreneur we hired a while back. We had two electrical problems - a GFI outlet that appeared to have a circuit problem, and a doorbell that had stopped dinging. We actually went to the newspaper classifieds and hired someone who advertised in a professionals section. This person was able to come the same day we called, and turned out to be 20 years old just starting his business. He competently solved our problems, then handed us the bill which was rather large, but worth it to solve our problems.
 
Turns out he had received most of his training in technical classes in public schools. Point is, there is a lot of work available for those who are willing to get their hands dirty and take a risk on being available to the public. That is the pathway to the middle class that still exists, should folks have enough incentive to work towards that goal. Many don't have that incentive.
George N Romey Added Dec 4, 2018 - 8:03pm
EBAC that path is not that open. Yes there will be a few lucky ones.  Just like there a few lucky ones that played the lottery.  I work for a software firm.  No college degree. No interview.
Marty Koval Added Dec 4, 2018 - 9:27pm
George,
 
I can relate to the essay you wrote. I graduated from high school in 1969. Went to a two year collage and got my associated degree in 1971. Then I went to Cornell university and earned a bachelor degree in 1973. Then went into the business world. After 15 years, I realized my career had stalled, because I did not have an MBA. Decided to get my MBA, which I did by taking evening classes and a Saturday class for two years, while working full time.
 
Once I got my MBA, I was able to get more senior management positions in various companies I worked for. Then, when a new CEO or president would come into a company, they would fire most of the senior managers and replace them with people they knew or trusted.
 
Many times to procure another senior management position, I would have to move to a new city in a new state. In my career this happen six times, and it takes a heavy toll on both yourself and family.  
 
You are correct on you statement, that when people have a special connection with the top executives in a company, it gives them a path to good position. I have found that many of these people who got those positions, were not the best qualified. It's the old saying, it is not what you know, it's who you know.
 
It is a tough world out there. To survive and prosper you have to be tough minded, willing to work long hours and be ready for change. The only certainty in the business world is change.
 
Ken Added Dec 5, 2018 - 1:32am
This is silly.  As much as Bill's "the american dream has been sold off to the top 1%". which is moronic, but then, what do you expect from that?
 
there are tens of thousands of 6 figure jobs out there that don't require a college degree.  They don't even have an age requirement.  And they are desperate for qualified people to fill them.  They just aren't "glamorous" jobs.  MikeRoweWorks is a foundation that pushes people to understand a college education isn't the only way to succeed in America.  Train for a few montohs and become a heavy equipment operator.  A skilled welder or any number of very honorable jobs.
 
It is only in your own imagination that you cannot succeed in America if you you really want to.
 
On top of that, come up with a life changing tool, invention, or whatever and you have the opportunity to be in that 1%.
 
People like Bill who jealously lambaste the 1% are the problem, not the American dream itself.
Gerrilea Added Dec 5, 2018 - 2:48am
Ken--- I'd vehemently disagree with your assessment.  You clearly must have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth and it's keeping you from thinking clearly.
 
Bill & George are on the same page with me.  We were conditioned to believe if you did all the things you were told, life would be wonderful.  Go to school, get your HS diploma then get your College degree and you could work your way up the ladder to a complete and successful life.
 
They are also correct that "dream" was sold off BY the elite whom also bought and put into place criminal sycophants in our government to protect them from any liability for their actions.  Michael Taylor, Monsanto.  He is the epitome of what went wrong in this nation (and still is).
 
We were collectively suckered into an "economic system" that is Fascism/Socialism for the elite and "capitalism" for the rest of us.
 
The Savings & Loan Scam was the beginning of our descent.  We paid billions for the criminal actions of a few elite bastards and barely 1,000 people went to jail for their fraud.
 
Fast-forward to 2008 and the largest bankruptcy in our history, Lehman Brothers....AND NO ONE WENT TO JAIL.
 
In between those two events, our "corporate masters" in government created the WTO, the IMF and all those wonderful "free trade agreements" that insured our country would be de-industrialized and sent packing with a hug and a kiss (tax breaks) to slave-labored nations.
 
The fact that you can now claim there are "good paying jobs" out there is an insult and rubbing salt in the wound.
 
You haven't lived through the hell most of us have become accustomed to.
 
Pfft!
 
 
FacePalm Added Dec 5, 2018 - 7:19am
George-
If you haven't yet read "Rich Dad, Poor Dad," by Robert Kiyosaki, you should get started today.  If you can't afford his book, you should run a search-engine and pick up at least the basics.
 
You're certainly right insofar as the "get a great education, get a great job = success" is no longer true.  Here's the new paradigm, in a nutshell:
 
"The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
- Alvin Toffler
 
This is what one must needs do when the paradigm one was sold on turns out to have been lies.
 
There's another book that speaks to this issue quite well, called "Who Moved The Cheese?," if i remember aright; summing up my vague recollection of it, it was about rats in a maze who were used to the cheese being dispensed at a certain place at a certain time, and IAW long-established "norms" like earning it by the performance of various tasks. When it stopped coming, most just waited around for it to start again, and once the starving began, turned on each other - but 'twas the enterprising or those who learned they had no other choice but to find another supply who survived.
 
"Good things may come to those who wait," said Abraham Lincoln, "But only the things left by those who hustled."
George N Romey Added Dec 5, 2018 - 8:22am
Not all people are going to have the aptitude to work in advanced technology.  Most people are average even though the morons at sites like LinkedIn claim everyone must be "above average" to get a decent job.  Which begs the question if everyone is above average than isn't everyone average.
 
I've heard all the "LinkedIn hype."  Its like a lot of marketing, bullshit.
Autumn Cote Added Dec 5, 2018 - 8:54am
George,
Please note, the more personal responses you offer the more likely your articles remain popular and discussed.  In addition, the more likely I promote your articles in one of my marketing email blasts.  As always, many thanks for your participation with Writer Beat!
Bill Kamps Added Dec 5, 2018 - 9:37am
There are a number of currents at work here. 
 
First is even determining what we mean by a middle class lifestyle. 
 
Certainly the middle class of today live much better than the middle class of 1960.   Both groups had cars, but today's cars are much better and pollute much less.  Both groups owned homes, but today's homes are larger and much nicer.  Both groups went on vacations, but today's vacation are more often overseas.   Both groups had access to food, but we have access to more fresh and organic food.  Both groups had access to health care, but today's treatments are much better.  Both groups have TVs but todays 60" monsters are much better than the 12" color TV of the 60s and cost less when adjusted for inflation.  The idea being that the middle class is not a stagnant definition. 
 
Then, the standard of living in the world is becoming more homogeneous.    The poorest countries are raising their standard of living, the richest countries are losing the ease with which they achieved upper middle class status.
 
The middle class is still achievable in the US, as you say, it just takes more work, or luck to get there.  Why? because there are more people in the world competing for this middle class status.  It is not exactly a zero sum game, but the pie cant expand to easily include everyone either.  Certainly the world wide standard of living is higher than 100 years ago, taking the larger view.
 
In 1960, the US produced 35% of world GDP with 5% of the population.  This allowed people with high school educations, to buy houses and cars, and live a middle class life.   This wasnt possible in very many other countries, because those economies were not as dominant.  It was impossible to maintain this kind of dominance.  Today  with 5%  of the population the US produces 22% of world GDP.  This is on a par with countries like Canada, Germany, the UK and other modern economies. 
 
If all economies were equally capable, we should in theory be producing about 5% of world GDP with 5% of the population.  This may never happen, but the trend will be in that direction. 
 
The bad news is that this will make it more difficult to be in the middle class.  The good news that even so, our lifestyle may likely still be better. 
 
George N Romey Added Dec 5, 2018 - 11:02am
The thing Bill is that the rich are seeing huge strides. You miss the big picture. In 1960s yes the televisions sucked by could be paid for in wages. There were no credit cards and the like. Takeaway all the means of consumer debt and the picture would vastly change.
 
The problem with debt is that it robs tomorrow’s quality of life. Debt service means there’s far less for things like retirement and children education. 
 
We as a nation are only maintaining some appearance of a middle class lifestyle because of massive debt. 
Bill Kamps Added Dec 5, 2018 - 11:08am
Also, it is now a world wide economy.  The question then becomes are people in the middle class, based on world standards or US standards?  
 
To George's larger point.  We are being lied to in the sense that we are taught the the US is somehow exceptional, meaning the economic rules of the world dont apply to us.  They DO apply to us.  We are competing with the rest of the world economically whether we realize  it or not.  Simply doing your job, and staying out of trouble will not raise your standard of living. It wont guarantee your standard of living will be higher than your parents.
 
If you want to move up substantially in your standard of living, you need to DO something substantial.  Start a company, learn how to do something of great value to companies, learn how to be a great investor.  Just being an average working with an average college degree, will not grant you a substantial raise in your standard of living.  George is correct, the bar keeps moving, but then so does our lifestyle as I mention above.
 
I have two nephews that are twins.  Their parents are a doctor and an attorney.  What are the odds that they will have a standard of living greater than their parents?  Not very good, unless they become doctors or attorneys and marry similarly.  In other words they are going to have to bust butt to do it.  They are not in the 1%, because the parents are not high end attorneys or doctors, but they are comfortably in middle class. 
 
We are being lied to in the sense that this is difficult.  We are not told it is difficult.   It is still possible in the US, perhaps as possible as any place, but it is not easy. 
Bill Kamps Added Dec 5, 2018 - 11:16am
The thing Bill is that the rich are seeing huge strides.
 
The rich have always done well, and have always existed.  So the fact that they are doing well is not terribly relevant.  They did well in the 1800s before there even was a middle class.
 
Debt is both a blessing and a curse.  In the  1960s people bought houses with a mortgage.  In other countries houses could only be bought with cash at that time.  My parents bought their house on debt, and their car with debt.  So even then there was debt.  Yes less of it, and qualifying was more difficult.  But saying there wasnt debt then, is really not true.  My parents had a credit card in 1969, I had one in college in the 1970s.   They just werent used like they are today.
 
TVs are more affordable now, than in the 1960s.  Yes you had to pay cash for  them in the 1960s, which is why my middle class family didnt have a color TV until 1970, rather than in the mid 60s when they first came out.
 
Yes  many people abuse the debt it is not a good thing.
 
The BIG picture George is that it is world economy, not just a US economy.
 
George N Romey Added Dec 5, 2018 - 11:30am
Yes Bill but people want to believe the American Dream and it’s still being pitched to them by many sources.
 
There is no way in hell someone like Donald Trump would have reached office if there wasn’t economic misery in this country. While he sometimes fakes social conservativeness we both know and anyone else with a brain that’s never been his calling card. 
 
Technology will cause the bifurcation of society. Some will be lucky winners. Even more will be the working poor. The debt bubble as in 2008 will burst again only bigger.  
 
You assume all those seemingly upper middle income yuppies around you are using credit wisely. That’s not the reality. Just like 2008 when the credit cards get cut off along with home equity lines of credit it won’t be pretty. You seem to fail to realize last time the Fed primed the credit pump with more than $10 trillion in near free money to the banks.  The Fed bought all those garbage securities of packaged loans to halt the slide. Will this happen again?
Michael Dolan Added Dec 5, 2018 - 11:39am
Do you condemn those who criminally enter America in the hundreds of thousands. When many many enter America and kill=steal=rape day in and day out. What would you say if one of your kids were raped. What can go wrong=====Wake UP-Americans-NOW. 
Bill Kamps Added Dec 5, 2018 - 11:49am
You assume all those seemingly upper middle income yuppies around you are using credit wisely.
 
Where did I say or imply this? 
 
Actually what I said was:  Yes  many people abuse the debt it is not a good thing
 
I am NOT saying there isnt stress in the system.  A lot of the stress is caused by expectations, expectations based on the lies we are told.  It is unreasonable to think that one can be in the upper middle class, if they havent inherited money, and if they dont have a really good job, which are not common. 
 
Yes it used to be easier to be in the upper middle class.  The lies we were told made this sound  like it was easy.  Just get a college degree and you are there.  Not so.  
 
I dont think we disagree a lot on the situation.  I think we disagree in the sense that I think it is normal, that is difficult to change one's economic status.  At one time it was easy, but that was a fluke of history.  It never before was easy, and its not likely to be easy again.  However, we are told because of American Exceptionalism that it should be easy.  That is nonsense.  Everyone in the world wants to be in the upper middle class, but not everyone is  going to make it.  We are in competition with  many others. 
 
I distinguish between the upper middle class, and simply the middle class.  I would say that many in the US that we think of as poor, by world standards are comfortably in the middle class.  Even people that dont own homes, but are making $40-50K per year, are comfortably in the middle class by world standards.  However, this is not the standard of living you are speaking about. 
 
However, you havent defined what you mean by middle class. It is a pretty big space.  It can go up to at least $200-300K per year in earnings(probably even higher), since these people are still far from the "rich" or 1%ers we see so many complaints about.
Dave Volek Added Dec 5, 2018 - 1:21pm
Good article George and great responses, especially from Bill Camps
 
The American/Canadian economy from 1945 to 1970 that created a large middle class was an aberration in history. Basically, North America did not have a lot of war damage to repair, which gave these two countries a great competitive edge. We could say--as George has so ably described in quite a few WB posts--that we are turning back to more normal social-economic conditions where we have 15% of the population living quite well, 85% struggling, and not many in between.
 
But this natural order is not something we should strive for. Having 85% of the population in a discontented state is a recipe for lots of social unrest. Look at the protests in France these days, which were ostensibly sparked by a slight increase in gasoline prices. There is a lot of frustration out there. 
 
Western democracy is failing to keep the peace. When Joe Lunchbucket realizes that Mr. Trump cannot fix things, Joe too will be throwing rocks at police on the streets.
 
Either we start thinking of a new way to organize ourselves or let some dictator impose order on us. Whether this dictator emanates from the current elite or from the proletariat-turn-new-elite, it won't much different for most of us.
Bill Kamps Added Dec 5, 2018 - 1:38pm
Dave, on a positive note, I think expectations are changing, and it is largely about expectations.   Our standard of living is far beyond what our grandparents had in terms of the amount and quality of possessions most families have.  These are not all necessary.  Most possessions people have are optional.  My brother has a three car garage and cant fit even one car into it, it is just full of stuff he hardly ever uses.  If it all disappeared his standard of living wouldnt go down. 
 
I see much evidence that people's expectations are starting to moderate.  This is especially true of younger people.  People are starting to realize that buying a home limits their mobility freedom.  It also is not automatically a good investment.  With new businesses like Uber, people are starting to question the need for two cars in a family.  
 
In most other countries, owning an urban detached single family home was unusual.  The US and Canada were relatively rare in that situation. Partly this was because of our wealth, and also because we have lots of space.  People are now starting to question the wisdom of this.
 
People will adapt.  We have adapted in the past.  However, this  is not helped by the nonsense we hear from politicians. 
George N Romey Added Dec 5, 2018 - 4:19pm
Bill, our parents and grandparents didn't have all that "stuff" because it the innovation wasn't there yet and they didn't have the means to access debt to accrue all that "stuff."  Now we do.
 
Debt has soared well past the levels seen in 2008. I think you are more intelligent than the Fox News crowd that thinks 2008 was about banks being forced to give out loans to unqualified poor people.  Since then debt levels have far outpaced income growth and GDP growth.
 
Simple math.  If you bring home $5,000 a month but have $6,000 in debt payments you might be able to juggle it for awhile.  Particularly if you are a bit cunning and imaginative.  But eventually the math does you in.
 
What we were experiencing 10 years ago was the tremor.  The real financial earthquake is coming.  Look at what's happening to the stock market. Yes, the Feds might pull out all the stops again and pile trillions into fixing the debt markets.  However, I think its a good bet we have Trump until 2025 and he's more likely to do as his crazy followers want.
 
You talk about fewer young people buying homes.  That limits jobs in the trades. Jobs in retail (not buying a bunch of crap from Home Depot or Best Buy for a big home).  Jobs in home furnishings and decor manufacturing.  Now take that against a whole host of industries. Those people do not have their MBA in Computer Science from Standford.  They're lucky if they have a college degree from one of the for profit college mills.
 
Where will they go?  Certainly not to Facebook, Google or Twitter.  Maybe Wal Mart but even Wal Mart is automating.
 
It's as Dave said once the American Dream is deemed dead, even by Trump true believers it's going to get ugly. Do some reading.  We've as a country have seen this before.  Few today understand just how bad this country was in 1933 and close to total revolt.  FDR for all his faults was able to keep a lid on emotions.
 
But its no longer 1933 and Donald Trump ain't no FDR.
Cullen Kehoe Added Dec 5, 2018 - 6:47pm
If you compare previous generations to ones the followed over the 19th and 20th centuries, I don't think you've ever had a situation where the children stood to be less well off than their parents (approximately what the U.S.A. is facing now).
 
The GI Generations saw from their childhood to old ages practically a different planet. When my grandpa grew up, as a young child, the roads consisted of horses and buggies sharing the roads with Model T's. They had a phone in their very small apartment they had to put a nickel in to use. And when he was around 50, man landed on the moon. And he was emailing me on the computer we gave him in 2000 in the months before he died. 
 
It's a little rich trying to compare little technological trickets people have today to 50 years ago (when they obviously didn't exist) and say "see you're better off today because you have a secondhand smart phone". Living on government benefits with having a part time job at Walmart and little apartment, AND a second hand smart phone is hardly better than having a house, car, raising a family in the 1960's. 
George N Romey Added Dec 5, 2018 - 7:37pm
I’m better educated than my parents and far more relevant skill but I did not reach their quality of life. I’m not alone. I refuse to upgrade my life with debt anymore. Debt sustains the American dream.
 
Bill ask those yuppies you see at trendy Houston restaurants how much they have tucked away.
Ward Tipton Added Dec 6, 2018 - 1:28am
The Technological Automation Revolution is here and now. You think this is something? You ain't seen nothing yet! 
Jeffry Gilbert Added Dec 6, 2018 - 8:03am
The DUHmerican lie encompasses much more than the DUHmerican Dream. Forty eight years ago that became clear to me and nothing I have discovered, read, or observed since has mitigated the anger at the lies and those who foisted them nor toward those who continue to believe and spread them. 
Bill Kamps Added Dec 6, 2018 - 8:44am
I’m better educated than my parents and far more relevant skill but I did not reach their quality of life.
 
This is kind of a relative thing.  How do  you measure this? 
 
My guess is your car is better, your house is better, you have access to better health care.  Did you parents travel the world, I know you have.  Yes lots of things were not invented when your parents were young, that is part of us being better off.  We have better things available to us, travel is easier.  It is part of how progress is measured. 
 
What part of your life is not better off?  how to you measure progress?
 
Having said that, yes the next generation will have a difficult time being better off than our generation.  Why? because we have it pretty well.  Go back to my nephews, father is an attorney and mom is a doctor. What are the odds the kids will do better than that?  Low.  Maybe if they work hard they will do as well.  Grandfather was a car mechanic, so yea the attorney has a better life than the car mechanic, that should not be a surprise.
 
After we reach a certain level of prosperity, it is difficult for each subsequent generation to be a lot better off. 
 
I am NOT saying that people dont have too much personal debt.  You keep putting those words in my mouth.  They have too much debt because they think they need so much stuff, but they dont need it and people are starting to learn it. 
 
I generally agree with your topic, that we have been fed a bunch  of myths or lies.  People took the historical fluke of the 50s and 60s and thought it should always be that way.   They thought because we were from the USA we just had to show up and be really prosperous.  We  were "exceptional" .   Other countries were far behind us then, but they worked hard and caught up.  Third world countries learned how to make autos, steel, appliances, etc.   Was it possible to stay way ahead like we were in the 60s, it would have been difficult.
 
Some of what is happening is the US screwing up.  Some of it is just how the world works, it is not a static situation.  Countries dont stay stagnant economically.  Sixty years ago, these countries were not industrial countries and they are now,   China, South Korea, Brasil, India, Russia, etc.  That is more than half the world's population.  Germany, Japan and much of Europe were still rebuilding.  We were not always going to have 35% of world GDP in the USA. 
 
The world changes and people and countries have to adapt.  Some of the advantages we had 60 years ago are gone, some still remain.  However we have not done a great job adapting to the changing world economy.   Part of that is because our leaders keep telling us how great we are, and are not telling us we need to work hard and live within our means because it is a competitive world out there.
George N Romey Added Dec 6, 2018 - 9:35am
No Bill my car is no better and my parents had affordable healthcare. Mine’s a joke. If a get seriously sick financially I’m screwed. Both of my parents had series medical issues I could never afford. I’ve only traveled the world because I never had children. My parents had four.
 
No way, no how I’ve had it better even owning a self phone and tablet.
Bill Kamps Added Dec 6, 2018 - 10:56am
Well, George that is unfortunate.  However, there is no law in the universe that says subsequent generations should live a better life than the previous ones.  That is one of the lies or myths we have bought into.
 
For a 1000 years of civilization, each generation was pretty much the same, the Industrial Revolution changed that.  But the benefits of the IR reach a point of diminishing returns.   
 
If we look at the total world, I think  on average people are better off.  If we look at the countries that were the richest in the 1970s, they are not doing better.  This is largely because of expectations.  People EXPECTED each generation to do better, politicians made policy expecting 3% growth to continue forever.  It cant, not real growth after inflation.
 
As I pointed out in my example with my nephews, the kids of today will have a difficult time living better than their parents, often times because the parents are doing very well. 
 
For each of us the question is different.  My Dad was a cop, so of course my life is better than his.  If my Dad was a doctor, it wouldnt have been. 
Bill H. Added Dec 6, 2018 - 11:29am
Ken, apparently you aren't aware of the cost of living changes over the years. When I was young, most parents with a mediocre job could not only afford a house, but could buy a new car every 4 years, send their kid to college, and live the "American Dream" with no problem, while still putting money in a savings account reaping over 6% interest.
People were payed livable wages, and the commodities required to live were priced reasonably. Even during the majority of my working career, I would average yearly pay increases of 6% to 11%.
Companies actually cared about their workers and knew the value of morale and dedication. Paying decent wages did more than retain the best employees, it also kept the community working and created great neighborhoods to live in. The machine was well oiled and ran smooth. Greed and corruption have ruined this country, and it will be difficult, if not impossible to get that type of balance back again.
Dave Volek Added Dec 6, 2018 - 12:13pm
Bill Kamps
What you are saying is indeed true. Our expectations have indeed changed. I would say that there are more than a few middle class and upper middle class people who have more stuff than they really need.
 
My family is lower middle class. My wife is staying home to take care of our toddler, from whom we incurred some debts for fertility treatment. We don't smoke; we don't drink, we drive old cars (which fortunately have proven to be quite reliable). We have a condo townhouse with reasonable mortgage payments.
 
My wife wants to go back to work, but she is having trouble finding work that fits with a toddler's life. The expense of day care would wipe out a good chunk of her paycheck.
 
While my wife is a bit of a packrat, she seldom buys things new. Thrift stores is where most of our stuff comes from. She knows her grocery prices and watches the flyers for sales.
 
My wage is $31 an hour. My income is not quite keeping us afloat, and I have to delve into my retirement savings once in a while. We are not getting our debts paid off. If my wife cannot find work, I'm going to find a second job in the new year. 
 
I'm not telling WB this to complain about my situation, but rather to illustrate that clean-living lower middle class family has an immense financial challenge. If I plug my situation into primary wage earner of $20 an hour, I can see there is no getting ahead if this person has a family. This is the demographic that is going to support the likes of Mr. Trump, who seems different but won't be able to deliver on his promises. 
 
As for the middle class families who have filled their three-car garage with useless stuff, I don't feel too sorry for them. But I think we both know they are likely to side with the true frustrations of the lower middle class rather than admit their mistakes.
 
The recent protests in France are a harbinger of middle class frustration in USA. For the time being, they will park their hopes on Mr. Trump.
 
Stone-Eater Added Dec 6, 2018 - 1:56pm
Funny thing is that here in Europe we have been looking at the US for quite some decades, and two things always made us smile: That "American dream" bullshit and the fact that "hire and fire" seems to be a thing which is APPRECIATED...
Dino Manalis Added Dec 6, 2018 - 2:26pm
 There are many lies and it's not isolated to America, life is difficult and we have to cope with it the best way we can.  Keep trying!
George N Romey Added Dec 6, 2018 - 2:39pm
What's been handed down from the elite establishment is that one should determine their status in life built "upon stuff they can buy."  Look at old television commercials from the 1960s.  People were buying the "stuff" of the day with 1 or 1.5 paychecks with money left over to put in the bank. Sure "stuff" didn't last longer because the technology hadn't advanced.
 
Some of the "stuff" has gotten much cheaper because we pay near slave wages for it to be built, rather than pay local wages here.  While the "stuff" is cheaper the decline in the paycheck is larger.  Not to mention not all "stuff" is cheaper.  Back when I was a kid when one of us got sick my parents had a Blue Cross, Blue Shield $10 visit copay.  Their insurance paid everything else and their employer covered the total premium.  Today if I get really sick I'm screwed.  I might as well just croak.
 
Dave said he's making $31 an hour and barely making it but many must survive on $20 an hour, or less.  BTW how do they afford that smartphone?  The carrier allows them to pay it off over a 2-3 year contract.  Or they are able to harness a Best Buy credit card, which has continually lowered its credit standards so more people can buy their "stuff."
 
When are people going to start realizing that smartphones and tablets while they make life easier and probably more enjoyable aren't a sign we are advancing the American Dream.  Not when buying a new car now requires a 7 year loan (and why I'm driving around in a 13 year old car hoping it gives me a few more years.)
 
Finally, the stock market has been dropping on recession fears.  I have no idea of whether a recession is coming.  But if it does given the massive amount of debt that has been built over the past 10 years we are so screwed.  Donald Trump might find himself up against what FDR experienced.  
FacePalm Added Dec 6, 2018 - 2:41pm
SEFa-
Some do achieve that dream - but as it's based on debt paper, it's generally just that.  If/when the music stops on the merry-go-round, a lot of people will find that their pleasant dream had no basis in reality, and because it didn't, they'll wake up to the nightmare.
 
i don't know what you mean about ""hire and fire" seems to be a thing which is appreciated," though.
If you're the one doing the hiring and firing, if you're the one signing the front of the checks, most of the time things are going ok or way better than ok; those who seek ONLY a paycheck, who seek to ONLY be an employee and not engage their creativity and alertness to opportunity, they'll be running a treadmill constantly.
 
At the risk of being redundant, one can learn a good deal from Robert Kiyosaki's "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" quadrant.
Stone-Eater Added Dec 6, 2018 - 2:49pm
Face
 
What I mean is that there is no protection for the worker, You can hire anybody on the spot and kick him out although he may be good in his work but you don't like his face or political view. Happened to me when I was proposed for a job in Miami in 2000 by an IT company. They paid my business class flight from Africa to Miami, a condo for 2 weeks and the only thing that caused my de-consideration was the fact that I dared to criticize some parts of US foreign policies. They even told me: "You do excellent work but that's not enough to fit into a community if you don't agree fully with our way of life and how we act and see the world".
 
Bang LOL
Stone-Eater Added Dec 6, 2018 - 2:53pm
BTW: On the way back I was glad that I'm outspoken. Because I don't like to bow to anyone as I don't expect anyone to bow to me. It was a good experience. If I would have shut up I'd gotten the job but I wouldn't have lasted anyway.
George N Romey Added Dec 6, 2018 - 3:01pm
SEF I've always believed not to disclose my personal opinions to my employers, other than what might be necessary for the job.  Ultimately these aren't friends, they are co-workers, supervisors and subordinates (of which I currently have none and want none).  I go in do my job, collect my paycheck and then go what I like to do-workout, blog, travel, time with family and friends, watch YouTube, find a few good movies to stream.  Work is there to financially support my life.
 
Since I've been very lucky to get software skills over the past 8 months I'm now being approached by others.  I'll whore myself out to the highest bidder.  I'm no different than the women walking the street.
Ryan Messano Added Dec 6, 2018 - 3:16pm
Deleted comment from Stone's article.   Applies to George and the rest of the liberals too.
 
The problem with you liberals is you want respect, but you refuse to be respectable.  Your parents never whipped you, so I'm dealing with a bunch of spoiled brats on here, who are pitching deleting temper tantrums whenever their whims aren't worshiped.  Pathetic.
Marty Koval Added Dec 6, 2018 - 4:28pm
George N Romey:
 
I agree with your statement t that you should not disclose your personal opinions on social, political, religious issues to potential or existing employers. You never know what you say might offend or outright anger that person that has hire and fire authority.
 
Usually when this occurs, the employer will tell you that you are not a good fit to our business. They refuse to say anything else so they will not open themselves up to an age, race or religious discrimination suit.
 
Most employers want to hire and retain people who will not create disruption to both the organization and employees. Business' are not a social club and are focused on generating a profit and a reasonable return on their investments.
 
The potential employee must also understand what the culture is of the business you are interviewing with. If the business culture goes against your moral, social and religious beliefs, even if they want to hire you, you should say no. I say this, because if you do take the job, most likely you will find the position unrewarding and the environment not conducive to you belief system.
FacePalm Added Dec 6, 2018 - 4:29pm
SE-
There are many "protected classes" of workers in the US, but there are also what are called "at-will" employees, which can be and often are terminated for any reason or no reason.  Government and union workers, on the other hand, are much more difficult to fire, as are any professors who get "tenure."
 
i'm sorry you had to endure the firing, but i'm glad you stood for your principles.  In the end, we are no better than the word we give and the word we keep.
 
If, for example, someone says "Either you do this or i'm leaving and never coming back," then the demand is not met and they leave as promised - but come back - they've betrayed themselves and their word, which is no longer to be trusted to any degree.  The fact of this dishonesty colors everything else about that individual, makes everything they subsequently say suspect.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Dec 6, 2018 - 10:06pm
IMO, the only say any worker has in the way a business is run is that which the employer grants and those are revocable without notice.
 
I sat across the bargaining table from a pathological scumbag named Snow that was equally unable to face reality. 
 
I and others made him pay dearly for it and he still bragged about his 146% y-on-y increase in profit of our division.
Ken Added Dec 6, 2018 - 10:47pm
I'd vehemently disagree with your assessment.  You clearly must have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth and it's keeping you from thinking clearly.
 
Yep, I am in my ivory tower, looking down on you peons.
 
You haven't lived through the hell most of us have become accustomed to.
 
You have no idea what I lived through.  I have lived through stretches of years without working and could have declared bankruptcy.  Did I?  No.  I was up to close to 70,000 in debt.  I finally found a job that allowed me to do more than pay minimum payments and keep my head below water with terrible interest rates, and am now 15 years later, debt free.  Even had to move to economically horrible CA, but I was willing to do what it takes to succeed and pay off my debt. YES, MY debt - I didn't believe in writing it off and burdening others with it.  I owed it, and I found a way to ultimately pay it off.
 
Does that leave me with a lot now?  Nope.  I am working on building up savings, maybe one day owning a house, maybe one day saving enough to retire.  IT is impossible to do all 3 in CA, even on a 6 figure salary, so I have to choose what to attempt to do, because the tax burden here is so heavy, it is virtually impossible for a 1 income household to do all 3.
 
My point is - the dream is there.  Regulations and a monolithic government oppression we have today makes it much more difficult today.  Fortunately, Trump is relieving a lot of those regulatory issues to free up entrepreneurship.
 
I was willing to move across the country to do what I had to do to make a living.  I made sacrifices.  I worked many hours per week.
 
I was literally on vacation for the past 3 weeks, and spent about half that time working.  Did I get paid extra for it?  Nope.  But I knew it needed to happen, because no one else could do it.
 
There was no silver spoon in my mouth.  There was  shovel in my hand to work my butt off.
 
There is opportunity for all.  The question is, what are you willing to do to secure it for yourself?  It isn't something that is owed you.  You have to go out and take it.
Ryan Messano Added Dec 6, 2018 - 11:03pm
Totally agree with, Ken.  I've got zero respect for anyone who declares bankruptcy.  And I've been six figures in debt before.  Not fun, but I'd rather die than declare bankruptcy.  Born on welfare, and with virtue and hard work, worked my way up to own a business grossing nearly $500,000 a year.  Started 7 years before, making $11 an hour, with no benefits.  Unlike liberals, I didn't whine and moan, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.  If you do more work than you get paid to do, pretty soon, you get paid more for the work you do.
Minister Peaceful Poet Added Dec 7, 2018 - 12:59am
Will we ever see a TV show about the homeless, or how about the unemployed searching for a job.  Just they have a job or two, a place to live, but still need assistance from state aid.  When you watch tv, none of these people exist.  When people work, it's hardly even hard work.  Everyone has time to talk with their coworker about their life which doesn't include hunger, bills, no extra money for entertainment.  On TV, everbody lives a care free life unlike the real life most of us live here. 
George N Romey Added Dec 7, 2018 - 1:55pm
Most of its fantasy or made to seem like you need a bit of "grit."  The stories rarely showed the much larger crowd that works its ass off and still can't seem to make it from paycheck to paycheck, living on high rate payday loans.
 
The assumption in this country is that the working poor just have no initiative and if they did they'd get a better job. Or the other narrative which I find really out there, they keep their crummy paying job because they don't want to pay taxes. 
 
Let me tell say this.  I spent 5 years in lots of crummy jobs and working around a lot of the "working poor."  Not one person I ever met would have turned down a better paying job because they might pay taxes.
 
I find the people that babble on with this bullshit line are elites with their fancy degrees that have never spent one day interacting with people busting their ass for very little.
Dave Volek Added Dec 7, 2018 - 3:36pm
George
 
People may still have internal grit, but being in the working poor class can wear that grit down. If someone is cleaning hotel rooms 30 hours a week, and working at another hotel for another 30 hours a week, there is not much opportunity to better oneself--and rise above that situation. 
 
Poverty psychologically drains most people.
Ken Added Dec 7, 2018 - 8:39pm
The assumption in this country is that the working poor just have no initiative and if they did they'd get a better job
 
That is a false narrative.  That is the narrative of the left.  Those who want a permanent underclass.  Those who want to raise minimum wage to keep the underemployed unemployed and needing the government, all the while supporting the unions.
 
There is more opportunity in America than anywhere else in the world.  I even listed an example of 100s of thousands of jobs that need skilled workers today that frequently pay 6 figures.
 
Anyone with a motor and initiative can get ahead in America.  Nothing obligates you to stay where you currently are.  You have to be flexible, willing to go where the work is and, yes, actually be willing to work.  Put in your dues and if you keep working hard, you will ultimately be successful.
Stone-Eater Added Dec 8, 2018 - 6:46am
I guess we should start right at the beginning: What is the definition of a "good life" ? Having as much material as the neighbor or having the time to reflect, enjoy so-called spare-time and simply enjoy to BE ? If you choose the first, you might work yourself out on it and inherit his heart attack.
 
Note: You are what you are. You don't need to compare yourself to others. And if you regret that you're not what "they are or have" you haven't found out who YOU are.
George N Romey Added Dec 8, 2018 - 9:45am
Nothing like hearing bullshit from elites that have never had to work like many I've been around.  One of things that I would be amazed is how people working multiple jobs and barely making it took it in stride and matter of fact.  They work, go home sleep a couple of hours and show up at their next job with a smile on their face.
 
Go work manual labor at minimal pay 60 hours a week and come back and give me the typical line you hear from people born with a silver spoon in their mouth.
Stone-Eater Added Dec 8, 2018 - 11:24am
George
 
You didn't understand what I mean. If you're so fed up with this shit, leave it. You CAN do it. Unlike billions of people in the so-called "third world" who can barely eat. You don't need visas and stuff as an American. Take the risk. Why do you think I go to Africa ? Because I feel WORTHY there. I can teach the kids. I'm not considered an old asshole that can be disposed of, as it has become the rule here.
Stone-Eater Added Dec 8, 2018 - 11:31am
BTW George
 
We in the West had the culture that kids listen to the parents or grand-parents as well. That gave these a value in the community. In Africa, they're called djalis or "wise men", when they are older than 50 (life expectancy...). In Europe it was the same. My grandmother lived up to 96, played piano and was as open-minded as you can get. She traveled the world in the last ten years of her life, she spoke French, Englich, German and Italian (don't ask me where she learned that in the 1930's...) And she educated me. Not my mother, she did.
 
Today, the youth say: "Eh, yo, fuck, man, ah whaddya want, oldie, fuck off."
George N Romey Added Dec 8, 2018 - 2:26pm
SEF actually my life is quite good now. Paying off debt, socking money away and money to travel. However I went through a rough patch and many other Americans won’t be as lucky as me. It’s not that I don’t understand and appreciate their frustration. Most people simply can’t run off to Africa to live in a hut. They have no choice but to eek it out.
Stone-Eater Added Dec 8, 2018 - 4:37pm
Most people simply can’t run off to Africa to live in a hut.
 
Don't go into the extreme. George. People don't live in huts anymore in most parts of Africa LOL
 
And it's not running off. It's simply a choice between keeping on running against a wall or slipt through the space between the walls. Of course one has to accept to forget the comfort and organization that we have here in Europe.
George N Romey Added Dec 8, 2018 - 5:30pm
SEF some people have mouths to feed. I’m sure those struggling think about running off somewhere they’d could live simple and start anew. But the hungry mouths quickly abort the fantasy.
ChetDude Added Dec 8, 2018 - 8:16pm
One minor adjustment to an excellent article:
 
"For the 20-25 years following WW2 having a high school diploma was the ticket." 
 
If one had a "criminal record" back then in the rare cases where it really mattered, one need only move to another town or part of town, move over a state or two and/or change your name and no problem.  And of course, the question was rarely if ever asked as it habitually is now (along with intrusive "drug testing" and credit checks for employment). 
 
We don't have that level of privacy any more.
 
Some things to consider though are the fact that the advantages our parents enjoyed after WWII until around 1971 were a combination of the New Deal Communitarianism, higher tax rates on the rich and corporations (to pay for WWII in a progressive manner) which forced more sharing of the wealth produced, stronger Unions that brought everyone's wage levels higher, cheap fossil-fuels absent the disastrous consequences of burning them and population only slightly higher than the Planet can reasonably sustain.
 
Now we live on a vastly overpopulated, over-exploited, over-polluted, Post-AGW, post-Peak-Oil Planet (fracking is a short lived aberration).
 
There will never be enough "jobs" for even the 7 1/2 billion humans that are living now so they are more heavily rationed by the now ubiquitous global capitalist class.  So now there's usually a higher bar to entry, a lower likelihood of retaining a "job" and a higher likelihood that layoffs and/or being made contingent and/or long periods of unemployment are in our future. 
 
There's also a much greater degree of age discrimination to further ration "employment"...40 is the new 70 when it comes to hiring!
 
There are pro-active, peaceful, sustainable ways for us to go to get over this disgusting situation but when I articulate them, too many (uninformed) people go ballistic.  ;-)
ChetDude Added Dec 8, 2018 - 8:21pm
Mogg: "Success" in the scarcity-based economic lottery that is capitalism, especially the rapacious, neoliberal vulture capitalism as practiced in the USAmerican Empire is ALWAYS a matter of luck...
 
Beginning with 90% of that luck choosing the right skin color and parents at birth...
ChetDude Added Dec 8, 2018 - 11:06pm
"In America we have a saying that many of us have found to be true: The harder you worker, the luckier you get."
 
In America, most folks see through that bullsh*t.  That's one of the reason so many of them voted for "elected" Trump after he lied to them saying he'll help them vs. the obvious creature of the status-quo.  (of course, most of THEM preferred Sanders)...
 
I've "lived the times" I comment on.  I've worked for decades at Universities, corporations and as a freelancer until age discrimination took me out.
 
The bottom line is that the number main determinants of success in USAmerica is the color of one's skin (still) and the socioeconomic class one is born into...PUNTO...
 
Or did you miss all of the studies that have shown that USAmerica has the most unequal and most rigid class systems in the OECD?
 
And, again, you right-wingers have to make it personal with your ad-hominem bullsh*t.   Personally, I live a frugal but spiritually rich, happy, fulfilling life!
ChetDude Added Dec 8, 2018 - 11:11pm
PS: The hardest working people I've ever seen in USAmerica are the folks in the hood pushing a shopping cart collecting cans and bottle for 8-12 hour to buy a meal. 
 
They work a F*CK of a lot harder than those corporate executives I've been in meetings with over the years who just sit there and spout their meaningless bullsh*t for 6 and 7 figure salaries...
Jim Stoner Added Dec 9, 2018 - 1:06am
Minister Peaceful Poet;  See the movie The Soloist, with Jamie Foxx.  It treats a story of a homelesss man (a very special one) with respect.  TV can't deal honestly with it yet; see the comedy with William H. Macy now running--it's funny, but not so real.   (Another amazing real story:  The Florida Project, from 2017.) 
 
George R. is disillusioned with The American Dream, and perhaps his expectations were once too high; we all have before us examples of great accomplishments and great wealth (and, at times, the intersection).   That's true even in the world at large, now; what I would like to know more about is how this Dream (opportunity to succeed, freedom to pursue it) is perceived by others, once they take the "American" out of it.   If there is no hope here, nor there, then I suggest we encourage more contraception and right-to-die. 
 
As for me, I don't share the general pessimism I read here (exception to Bill Kamps, nobly arguing reason between the extremes of naivete and nihilism).  Success is about preparation, hard work, and luck.  There are very few exceptions.  If any of the three is deficient, the other two dimensions have to work twice as hard, and that formula will more than often break down.   (Luck includes health, too.)
Doug Plumb Added Dec 9, 2018 - 6:54am
The problem, at its core, is that people just want the good life. They do not wish to grow up or be enlightened. Its a nation of donkeys that can be lead anywhere. Wisdom is not respected. Redemption is achieved through work. We have been completely Sovietized, and a lot more is going to have to change than the economy. The economy is a symptom, not a cause. We have agreed to be donkeys and so our economy has been destroyed, but the spiritual destruction had to occur first.
Doug Plumb Added Dec 9, 2018 - 6:58am
As far as making money goes, I know what its like to make 5 K a week. I got there through a lot of hard work AND a hell of a lot of luck. When I got there I took some time off to look around, and I asked myself WTF am I doing this ? achieving status in a society gone mad?
Doug Plumb Added Dec 9, 2018 - 7:08am
kids walking around with nose rings and holes in their pants reflect the overall spiritual enlightenment. Nose rings are for donkeys and beasts of burden. Torn clothing is for hobo's.
George N Romey Added Dec 9, 2018 - 9:47am
I can't add much to what Chet has said.  Someone that has experienced the decline personally but not because he was the Fox News version of some lazy ass wanting free "government stuff."  Now about this bullshit fantasy of the trades.  Hopefully Cliff who's a member of the trades will come along and chime in because he has seen it first hand.
 
Because of wage depression, much of it by illegal immigrants, starting pay in the trades has been major depressed.  Want a job doing construction?  Be prepared for wages of $12 and $15.  Maybe some Fox News righties think this is a livable wage.  Same for jobs of caregivers, barbers and other service jobs.  $25K to$35K a year. You wonder why Americans are so pissed?  And many of those jobs want a college degree.
 
Moreover, technology is making it such that equipment last much longer and is computer controlled.  Often its just as cheap to buy new equipment. So for example a plumber will be needed less and will likely need to understand technology more.  While good for consumers its driving down the price of labor in the trades.  A relatively few number of high paid jobs are remaining by the supply increasingly far outweighs the demand.  
Doug Plumb Added Dec 9, 2018 - 5:23pm
I think many people are more dissatisfied with the never ending stream of BS they are being fed rather than their economic conditions.
Doug Plumb Added Dec 9, 2018 - 5:24pm
I think Mogg is right in his last paragraph.
Jim Stoner Added Dec 11, 2018 - 1:12pm
Redemption is achieved through work. -- I agree with Doug Plumb that this is one core problem with our society today, one that will have to be addressed as the fundamental elements of it change. 
My general theory on this subject is that it takes a whole lot less than the full-time efforts of every able-bodied adult to produce all the goods and services we need.  This is true at a national or global level, and the gap is going to grow a whole lot more.  The rest is essentially wasted effort that employs people in jobs created primarily for the purpose of creating jobs.  (see prison industry, military-industry complex, building a border wall, many others)
More people will have to be part-time workers, and that needs to be viable for them, economically and (let's call it) existentially.  To some extent, Europe has been dealing with this for awhile:  very high youth unemployment, living indefinitely with parents, never getting married, etc. 
I do have some ideas about the economic part, but I have a hard time identifying fulfilling activities for what all these people will do with their time.  Art will survive, and games, and (let's hope) social media that works for people.   More sex?  It's a good thing legalized marijuana is advancing, if our objective is to keep people happy and alive (as opposed to killing them off with crack, meth, and opioids).  Eventually an etiquette will develop in legalized society about when people should get high and when they should not (as opposed to today's invidious and puritanical standards). 
 

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