Decline and Fall of the American Dream

Photograph of Jim and myself

Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, G-506, parachuted into Normandy in 1944. At 0720 on D-Day, his platoon commander, Lt. Turner M. Chambliss, was killed by a sniper. When he jumped into Holland three months later, his plane was on fire. During the Siege of Bastogne, Jim ate snow saturated with cordite, an explosive. Jerry Frey trained as a Vietnamese linguist. After his orders to Vietnam were canceled in January 1973, he completed his enlistment at the National Security Agency.

Jim and Jerry want you to know that our country is committing suicide. Every major issue that confronts our country from sequestration to the necessity for immigration reform, is self-inflicted.

Nearly Half of Youth Say ‘American Dream’ Is Dead: Harvard Poll

Alex Clarke · Top Commenter · CCMS

We have been investing in poverty for years by destroying middle class jobs, pensions, healthcare, affordable housing, employee rights and deferring to the government to fill in the gaps. We have also been importing poverty. Uneducated unskilled poor people flooding across our borders with more and more children needing education and services. This is what happens when employers lose their moral compass and do not value their employees. Many jobs that used to provide a middle class job which allowed one to participate in the American Dream have been reduced to near poverty wages with reduced benefits. The easiest way for a business to increase profits is with an eraser. Lower wages and cost shift healthcare and benefits to the government.

Make no mistake: The American middle class is in trouble.

That trouble started decades ago, well before the 2008 financial crisis, and it is rooted in shifts far more complicated than the simple tax-and-spend debates that dominate economic policymaking in Washington.

It used to be that when the U.S. economy grew, workers up and down the economic ladder saw their incomes increase, too. But over the past 25 years, the economy has grown 83 percent, after adjusting for inflation — and the typical family’s income hasn’t budged. In that time, corporate profits doubled as a share of the economy. Workers today produce nearly twice as many goods and services per hour on the job as they did in 1989, but as a group, they get less of the nation’s economic pie. In 81 percent of America’s counties, the median income is lower today than it was 15 years ago.

November/December 2014 Frenzied Financialization
Shrinking the financial sector will make us all richer.
By Michael Konczal

If you want to know what happened to economic equality in this country, one word will explain a lot of it: financialization. That term refers to an increase in the size, scope, and power of the financial sector—the people and firms that manage money and underwrite stocks, bonds, derivatives, and other securities—relative to the rest of the economy.

The financialization revolution over the past thirty-five years has moved us toward greater inequality in three distinct ways. The first involves moving a larger share of the total national wealth into the hands of the financial sector. The second involves concentrating on activities that are of questionable value, or even detrimental to the economy as a whole. And finally, finance has increased inequality by convincing corporate executives and asset managers that corporations must be judged not by the quality of their products and workforce but by one thing only: immediate income paid to shareholders.

dead reckoning 9:12 PM EST
To understand the real changes in the US economy over the last 60 years, compare two eras at General Electric. This is how business professor Gerald Davis describes the perspective of Owen Young, who was CEO of GE almost straight through from 1922 to 1945:
“[S]tockholders are confined to a maximum return equivalent to a risk premium. The remaining profit stays in the enterprise, is paid out in higher wages, or is passed on to the customer.”
Davis contrasts that ethos with that of Jack Welch, CEO from 1981 to 2001; Welch, Davis says, believed in “the shareholder as king—the residual claimant, entitled to the [whole] pot of earnings.”

Despite the anaemic economic recovery in the US, it was another decent 12 months for American stock markets. Globalisation has resulted in the Dow Jones and the S&P becoming less a reflection of the state of the American economy as a whole, and more a reflection of American companies’ global reach. Many American corporations remained as profitable as ever, while ordinary Americans continued to struggle.

Nothing illustrates this better than the three-tiered American retail market. At the bottom end, Dollar Tree paid a hefty premium to acquire Family Dollar back in July. Likewise, profits ticked up nicely at posh stores like Nordstrom. However, catering to middle-income Americans remained tough. Sears is rapidly approaching its sell-by date, Target dealt with self-inflicted wounds and even Macy’s lost its shine. The restaurant trade is no different: the middle-of-the road eatery Olive Garden became so desperate it ran a ridiculed $100 all-you-can-eat pasta month.

UC Davis Economics Professor: There Is No American Dream

“America has no higher rate of social mobility than medieval England, Or pre-industrial Sweden,” he said. “That’s the most difficult part of talking about social mobility is because it is shattering people s dreams.”

Clark crunched the numbers in the U.S. from the past 100 years. His data shows the so-called American Dream—where hard work leads to more opportunities—is an illusion in the United States, and that social mobility here is no different than in the rest of the world.

…for both the middle and working classes, real wages have been stagnant the past 30 years, and housing equity has taken a nosedive.

At this rate, it won’t be long until the American Dream isn’t even a memory for the middle class.

All credible research finds the same evidence about the STEM workforce: ample supply, and, by industry accounts, thousands of applicants for any advertised job….Guestworkers currently make up two-thirds of all new IT hires, but employers are demanding further increases. If such lobbying efforts succeed, firms will have enough guestworkers for at least 100 percent of their new hiring and can continue to legally substitute these younger workers for current employees, holding down wages for both them and new hires.

So America is going to hell and will be saved by the methods of Peter Pan: “If you believe, clap your hands.”

American dream beyond reach?

American dream seen as out of reach

McClatchy Washington Bureau February 13, 2014

WASHINGTON — Racing into a new century in which many of the old rules don’t seem to apply anymore, Americans are overwhelmingly pessimistic about their chances of achieving and sustaining the American dream, according to a new Marist-McClatchy Poll.

They see an economic system in which they have to work harder than ever to get ahead, and a political system that’s unresponsive to their needs. They see the wealthy allowed to play by a different set of rules from everyone else.

Eight out of 10 Americans think it’s harder now than before, taking more effort to get ahead than it did for previous generations. Just 15 percent think it takes the same work as it did before, and a scant 5 percent think it’s easier now.

And Americans don’t think it will get better soon, with 78 percent thinking it also will be harder for the next generation to get ahead.

The findings underscore the landscape at a time when the economy and the country are being fundamentally changed by waves of globalization and new technology, and as Americans struggle to see a better path forward and their politicians grapple over how to help.

President Barack Obama speaks frequently about the growing gap between rich and poor, and he pushes for a higher minimum wage and health care subsidies, as well as programs to help people find new skills, at the same time he pushes free trade, which some blame for an exodus of jobs to lower-paying foreign factories. Republicans propose help for businesses, hoping that would lead them to hire more and pay more.

Neither side has sold the public on a future full of economic hope.

Looking at work, Americans think by 75-22 percent that U.S. corporations make stockholders their top priority, over their employees.

Looking at their own lives, most people consider themselves middle class. Eighty-six percent of those polled identified themselves that way, with 14 percent calling themselves upper middle class, 50 percent saying middle class and 22 percent saying lower middle class.

Most think the middle class is hurt most by government policies. Fifty-five percent think the middle class is most likely to be left behind by those actions, while another 40 percent said the poor would be hurt the most.

The findings come as the nation and the federal government struggle to help the economy rebound in a robust fashion. Officially, the deep recession that began in December 2007 has been over since mid-2009, but growth has been sluggish, consumer confidence has just begun to improve and government spending has been restrained.

“The poll really explains why people are feeling on the sidelines and so despondent,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York.

Polling has found that most people are wary of whether Washington can assist, but the new survey has constituents questioning whether any part of the American system can be a big help.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said people who worked hard still had a hard time maintaining their standard of living, a view that cut across nearly every income, geographic and age line.

Seventy-two percent of those who earn less than $50,000 a year felt that way, and 66 percent of those who earn more agreed. So did 63 percent of 18- to 29-year olds, and 71 percent of those 60 and older.

These attitudes have been building for years, Miringoff said, and the gloom is fueled by a political system that people think isn’t responsive to their needs.

“People just feel that those in Washington are not looking out for them,” he said. “They really feel a disconnect.”

The distrust of the wealthy – and the old belief that you could pull yourself up by your own bootstraps – was evident as 85 percent said there were different rules for the well-connected and people with money. Only 14 percent said everyone more or less played by the same rules to get ahead.

Even the wealthier felt that way, as 84 percent of those who earn more than $50,000 agreed, while 88 percent of those who make less concurred.

A country losing its way, where a formerly well-employed working and middle class has been abandoned by a corrupt government intent only on protecting the interests of a few billionaires. Sounds like the USA.

To the Editor:

Re “The Middle Class Is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World” (front page, Feb. 3):

Without a strong and healthy middle class, the economic health of this country is bound to deteriorate for all in the long run, except maybe for the 1 percent.

I started my family in the early 1960s, raising three children on a single salary as my wife, a registered nurse, stayed at home until the children were approaching their teens. We could afford a home, car, good food, vacations; watching expenses, we maintained a comfortable life.

For families today, this lifestyle is almost nonexistent. The economy as a whole depends on everyone sharing in the benefits. I believe that if a small minority consumes a large portion of the economic wealth, this will eventually lead to disaster for all. How long can a large segment of our society put up with this situation and not do something?

ROBERT PALKA Reston, Va., Feb. 3, 2014

To the Editor:

Every time the media reports on our “recovering” economy, I feel as if it is reporting about another country. I’m a highly educated middle-class worker (a teacher), and I’ve been laid off three times in the past seven years. Everyone I know is struggling economically, either having been laid off or afraid of being laid off. Many are permanently unemployed.

The next step in the collapse of our middle class is college tuitions. Most of my friends have taken out loans to help pay our kids’ tuitions. Many people can’t borrow against their houses anymore, so they borrow against their retirement funds.

I know many people in their 50s and 60s who have little or no retirement money left. What will happen when we retire? What will our children’s future be like?

DIANA LAMBERT Haddonfield, N.J., Feb. 3, 2014


Detroit’s Mark Twain Library, pictured, was closed in 1996 for renovations and never reopened

Teenagers who experience unbearable cyber-bullying, kill themselves.

The middle class is in steep decline.

The Decline Of The US Middle Class Is Getting Even Worse

Not long ago, researchers could easily pinpoint the typical American family. Not anymore.

The traditional portrait of working dad, stay-at-home mom and their kids is bobbing in a sea of co-habitation, single parenthood, divorce and remarriage.

Most troubling, says the author of a new report on the divergent paths of American families, is the economic polarization.

“There’s this sharp contrast,” said Zhenchao Qian, author of the study and a sociology professor at the Ohio State University. “Race and ethnicity, education, economics and immigration status are increasingly linked to how well families fare.”

The marriage divide, for example, closely tracks the nation’s growing class divide. People with lower levels of employment and education also are less likely to wed.–family-is-getting-hard-to-find.html

The prime directive for politicians is re-election, which provides the only rational explanation why febrile ideologues in the House have overwhelmed “responsible” Republicans.

“As the U.S. government remains shut down, and the country slides toward debt default, the legislators who precipitated the crisis seem oblivious to the damage this will cause to the U.S. economy and to America’s standing in the world.”

The federal government has become dysfunctional.

“This dysfunction isn’t built into the system. It’s a result of human failure. President Obama gets pummeled daily for his weak leadership but, compared with Boehner, he’s a titan.”

Public says dysfunctional government is nation’s top problem

Bureaucracy permitted 9/11 to be inevitable.

Political corruption,

the size of the military,

“The army itself had grown from the time of Augustus, when they had about a 250,000 troops, to the time of Diocletian, when they had somewhat over 600,000.”

Military brass, behaving badly: Files detail a spate of misconduct dogging armed forces

and the cost of government in the fifth century were root causes for the collapse of the Roman Empire.

“Rome had been something special, something they served. But the later Romans only sought power for themselves. Almost every military commanders secretly had his eye on the throne and was ready to overthrow the emperor and take power himself. The armies spent a lot of time fighting each other for power in Rome, rather than fighting the enemy.”

“To this catalog of troubles one needs also to add economic problems. Rome was spending more than it could afford. The free food rations for the poor of Rome and Constantinople were costing a fortune. The Purchasing of exotic spices and silk from the orient meant that over time Rome was spending its gold on overseas luxuries. Gold which didn’t return. Soon Rome didn’t have enough gold to produce coins with.”

Old Men Who Don’t Care

Those who have followed his career know that it was Greenspan who gave the green light to bank consolidation, Greenspan who pushed financial deregulation, Greenspan who advocated new global rules that would have reduced bank capital reserves and Greenspan who blocked efforts to crack down on abusive sub-prime lending. But if you are looking for him to accept any responsibility for the crisis that ensued, you will be sorely disappointed.

Bourbon bankruptcy

Causes of the French Revolution (1789)
Bankruptcy: French kings had engaged France in a variety of expensive wars and conflicts, some of which proved to be ill-conceived, such as the French & Indian War (1754–63), which was devastating to the French colonial empire, its national psyche and its economy. The role of the French in the American Revolutionary War was also financially crippling. Plus, the king and his court continued to spend lavishly. Even during times of economic crisis, the spending continued. Especially in the years preceding the Revolution, France was no longer a trading power, compared to UK, Netherlands, Spain or Portugal, since it had lost most of its colonial empire. It had to rely on generating revenues internally, so it had to increase taxation. The non-aristocratic class (peasants, bourgeoisie, those in un-inheritable positions) carried the tax burden, as nobles/aristocrats had generally purchased their positions of privilege, and could not be legally taxed under their then-current system. The king was unwilling and unable to reform the system which heavily taxed the poor majority, while ensuring privilege for the aristocrats. As a result of this limited tax base, the government became bankrupt, and could no longer secure loans, as it had defaulted several times in recent decades.

Napoleon redivivus: decide for your self.

Steve Jobs ‘believed he was a WWII fighter pilot in a past life’

About Jerry Frey

Born 1953. Vietnam Veteran. Graduated Ohio State 1980. Have 5 published books. In the Woods Before Dawn; Grandpa's Gone; Longstreet's Assault; Pioneer of Salvation; Three Quarter Cadillac
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