Where is the “American Dream”?

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Apr 11, 2012 in , , | No Comments

The dream has turned into a nightmare for many.

Today on Twitter, one of my followers commented he wondered where our perennial “American Dream” has gone. He lamented, that with student loans, no grad can hope to own a home any longer. Unfortunately, what he’s saying is very true. The American Dream we all took for granted used to include a home of your own, a good job and two cars in the garage. But, that entire scenario has shifted in only a few short years. Who do you know still owns a home? Who is working in a good full-time job? And not many under the age of 25 can get car loans these days.

In this blog post I’ll focus on the job situation, since you can’t own a home, or buy a car, without one.

Where are the Jobs?

This past week, we heard bad news about the jobs numbers in the U.S., far fewer people became employed than we had hoped. The reality is, even if we added 250,000 jobs per month, we have such a tremendous backlog, it would take at least 5 years to whittle it down! And more unsettling–if our job growth stays this low–it could take over 10 years for everyone who wants employment to find it. [Data information from The Money Class, by Suze Orman].

Employers in the private sector want to get more bang for their buck out of workers. What does that mean? Basically, they expect their workforce to put in longer hours. By doing this, they don’t have to hire new workers as their business picks up. What we’re seeing is American companies are more interested in their productivity, sitting on cash, than being a part of our country’s recovery. Therefore, it’s employers holding us back from a strong and complete recovery at this point. Even with some incentives to hire, large employers aren’t budging much. In fact, some are laying off thousands of workers. However, a glimmer of light might be shining in small businesses. Last week, it was reported that small business owners are hiring. Don’t discount small businesses, they make up the largest employers in this country.

In the public sector, things are worse than the private sector. Federal, state and local government workers have faced many budget cuts over the past few years. This trend will stay the same–or get worse–but not better.

It’s Barely Alive–but Kicking

I hesitate to write this next sentence, but it’s reality. The American Dream, as we once knew it, is on life support. No one really knows when the economy will recover, or whether life can ever be the same again. Here’s the good news: we’ll adapt, that’s what humans do. And don’t forget, American’s have an entrepreneurial spirit envied in much of the world. That hasn’t disappeared, I assure you.

Days ago, a handful of people in the San Francisco Bay Area became very wealthy with the sale of their tiny business to a giant. Overnight, the person who held 40% of the stock in the company made $400 million dollars–he’s only 24 years old! I shook my head when I heard what the nature of their business was, and how much a large company paid for it–it’s mind-boggling. But, this goes to show the small company had an idea, followed it, worked hard, and received the big pay-off. Though this type of transaction could well be the new American Dream, it’s not going to happen very often. What’s more likely is that entrepreneurs will continue to come up with ideas, market them, and hire people who can earn a living wage.

Hold on to Dreams

It’s disturbing to see so many negative blogs out there in cyberspace telling people they shouldn’t have dreams, or even hopes, for that matter. My advice is to ignore these bloggers, they have an agenda not worth discussing. Some dreams we have to postpone for a few months, or even years, but they are realized when the time is right.

For example: I had a dream of writing a textbook over 10 years ago. Since that time, I’ve taken workshops, been a member of writer’s groups, created a successful writer’s group, written for newspapers and a monthly, created an Edublog and was asked to write for StudentMentor.org. In that long process, I gained experience, confidence and honed my writing skills. Was my dream lost? Certainly not. I recently announced I was focusing on finishing my project and last week enlisted a mentor from a professional textbook writer’s association to guide me. My point: never give up on a dream or a hope to do something you love that may provide an income.

At a time in America when it appears there is no longer room for dreams, I say that’s the precise time we have to dream big.

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