The Myth of the American Dream

Rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality. When it comes to America, these are the first things that come to many people’s minds. In fact, these ideas are the American dream that draws so many to do whatever it takes to come to this country. Sadly, there is very little left of this so-called “American dream”, unless you are part of the small group of American’s today living comfortably. The rest of Americans have to struggle their way out of poverty, deal with a laughable education system, and racial issues.

Picture this, it’s a beautiful sunny day and you find yourself craving the fresh air. You decide to spend the day in the great city of Philadelphia. You’re taking a stroll down the street, and then it hits you, as if you have entered a parallel universe. Old wrappers and needles dance around your feet, the walking dead surround you. Believe it or not, you’re still in Philadelphia, welcome to Kensington. Not only does this feeling of entering a different world happen in Philadelphia, but all over the United States. In fact, according to the Center for Poverty Research, “in 2017, an estimated 39.7 million Americans lived in poverty…”. On top of that, if they manage to make it out of the group labeled poverty, they usually then find themselves living paycheck to paycheck. According to an article found on the CNBC website, “Nearly 80 percent of American workers (78 percent) say they’re living paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2017 report by employment website CareerBuilder.”. It’s just hard to believe that the once obtainable American dream has turned into addiction, crime, and homelessness for so many who just come to this country trying to find a better life.

A current solution being discussed is to raise the minimum wage to about $15 dollars. Now while this sounds like a good idea, there’s so much that could go wrong with this like the prices rising even more in basic goods. An example of the price of a basic good rising would be health care. On thebalance.com, it states that, “The cost of healthcare services rose by 5.1%. Drug prices also rose 2.5% during that time.” (Amadeo) Some other problems include jobs becoming more sparse in order to make up for the pay increase and even the possibility of an increase of homelessness and those in poverty.

Another possible suggestion could be the possibility of a pay cap, and the money being distributed more evenly amongst those in the company. No one should have to deal with these constant dilemmas of having to choose which basic necessity you’re going to need in order to survive the day. For example, a hard working mom shouldn’t have to decide whether to buy groceries or gas to get to work. On the other hand, you have these people at the top of the companies making more money than they know what to do with. An example of this would be the CEO of Amazon, named Jeff Bezos. On Money.com, they did the calculations and discovered that, “If you compare Bezos’s wealth (including his assets) to his employees’ salaries, at one point he was making more money in 10 seconds than half of Amazon’s employees made in 2017.” These examples show how the suggestion of a pay cap would allow everyone to thrive, and no one to have that great of excess like many do in America.

When it comes to education in America, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly the main problem. Yet, there are a lot of reasons leading up to the failure of the system. Some of these include the fact that schools are closing left and right and issues when it comes to teachers. Every day you hear on either the news or some form of social media about another school closing. In fact, the website for the National Center for Educational Statistics shows that just between 2013-2016 that 4,470 schools have shut down. A big reason for this happening is the tax cuts that are constantly being placed on the budget for the Education Department. The Washington Post discusses how in 2019, our president Donald Trump wanted to cut more than 8.5 billion from the Education Department budget. While doing so, this will cut the majority of after school activities and grants that textbooks, equipment, counseling services and other needs for schools. The cut will also affect school safety efforts and equipment and mental-health service. This is a huge deal because for these kids, especially in lower-income areas, the after school programs aid working parents and also allow and escape to many of these kids. With schools being closed left and right kids are being left in over-crowded classes, no extracurricular activities, and not getting the basic necessities needed to thrive in their educational lives.

On the other hand, these cuts are not only affecting children but the teachers as well. A lot of teachers are not receiving adequate supplies or pay, and have to go out of their way to use their own personal money and buy the supplies for the classroom. These problems weighing on the teachers makes it hard for them to fully communicate and work with their students. This leads full circle back to the fact that the American dream is now based solely on those who have a financial benefit. Since a lot of schools are struggling due to the tax cuts, many are forced to look into private schools which is just another large expense to figure out how to get together.

“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason” – Abraham Joshua Heschel. With all these financial burdens and educational hardships being faced today, the majority of African Americans and Latinos have to face it twice as hard. In any news article or on social media, every day you can see a new case about racial discrimination going on in schools or someone of the decent being killed. For example, according to a 2017 survey by NPR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Fifty-six percent of black Americans, 33 percent of Hispanics and 27 percent of Asian-Americans said they experienced racial discrimination when applying for jobs.”.

In The New York Times, they posted an article talking about the racial issue happening today. The article talks about a group of workers in Alabama.

“An example of this happened in Alabama to a group of black workers at the Austal USA shipyard. An employee named Ron Law walked into the break room at work one morning and found a noose hanging from the ceiling. It was one of eight nooses that black employees reported discovering at the Austal USA shipyard, according to court filings. They were part of a chilling pattern, the workers alleged: Racist graffiti regularly appeared in the men’s restrooms — the workers described images of hanging men, threats against specific employees, and Ku Klux Klan references scribbled inside stalls and on mirrors and walls. Sometimes, workers said, slurs were etched into the ships Law and others helped build for the US Navy. Law also said he heard a white supervisor refer to black employees as “monkeys” over his walkie-talkie. It’s almost comedic how a country based on freedom, has so many being killed or discriminated against for simply having a certain color skin.” (Bouie)

An old hatred, that was never gone, has decided to come back with a whole new wrath and affecting so many people today.

While only a small group of Americans are thriving, the others are struggling with poverty, lack of education, and racism. People are cheering down the streets to “Make America great again.” but how do we make something great that is so far gone or was never great in the first place. The American dream of rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality are completely gone. Or maybe it has just shown its true face of corruption, greed, and hatred.