My goal for this paper was to not only bring to light an issue with identity in America that I felt passionate about but to bring forth some solutions too. Too many people write things to be "conversation starters." Not me. Overall, I feel I've done a great job. I find no wrong and see no errors in this piece and think I did everything I set out to do. I wrote a lot but I think none of it ever gets repetitive and everything there is there because it needs to be.
It’s almost shocking to think how much the money you make means to you and who you are in 2018. Money has so much control over so many aspects of our lives, it makes it impossible to live a comfortable one without it. But it makes sense: when you work hard, you want something in return. Why not have that something be what you can use wherever you want to buy yourself whatever you want? We can’t argue the logic there. We can, however, argue that money shouldn’t be what runs our lives. Too many in America, who aren’t born with huge trust funds or parents on the Forbes 500, are stopped themselves from getting to that level of success because they can’t “afford” to get there. Success should be paid for with hard work, not with the wealth, power, or influence you’re born into. That’s a crucial part of the American Dream. Yet, more and more people every day see this dream as something less attainable. Too often are their identities becoming synonymous with the word “broke.” It’s about time we transform the goals of the American Dream and move our country toward a more social approach to our capitalistic nature, for the sake of those who have a chance to craft their own identities and not let their futures be dictated by income.
Finding solutions to the issues of income inequality, our country’s lack of social mobility, and addressing the American Dream’s outdated goal system should begin with understanding thoroughly why these issues exist. The most prevalent reasons being that, according to the Huffington Post, “Salaries have stagnated and entire sectors have cratered. At the same time, the cost of every prerequisite of a secure existence—education, housing and health care—has inflated into the stratosphere.” We also see that higher education seems to have become just another thing to impress potential employers for jobs offering the lowest wages as evidenced by the same HuffPost article when it says “48 percent of workers with bachelor’s degrees are employed in jobs for which they’re overqualified.” In 2018, waving around your bachelor’s degree in Chemistry is sure to get you a job at Walmart, but alone can’t help you if you apply to Dow or FMC. It’s obvious that these problems with the economy were ignored for decades just as the American Dream was being pushed down our throats and into our minds for years. We have for so long defined one another by whether or not we have achieved this dream without understanding that all the while, the world has been changing. We have continued to describe one’s standing and level of stability today according to the standards of those who thrived in the ‘20, ‘40s and ‘50s (very few thrived in the ‘30s), where the primary concerns of the average American citizen were the togetherness of family and whether or not there was “a chicken in every pot.” America has evolved since then. The workforce has evolved since then. But somehow, our ideas of who were all are haven’t.
It is so immensely important that we stop money from keeping those born in specific areas of the country down and start raising everyone up—rich, poor, immigrant, natural-born, black, white—everyone who graces the cities and towns of this great country. The systematic abuse of poorer citizens is causing each and everyone to feel as if they don’t belong anywhere but where they already are. But these systematic issues are not the results of malicious intent from a few at the top (at least not entirely). They are the result of those of us who continue to do nothing. They are the result of no action and the result of our flawed goal system.
Firstly, the American Dream is so superlative in its design; we just have to work out a few of the kinks. It’s not the idea that’s flawed; it’s the goals of the baby boomers that we continue to pursue in this time. Changing these goals and forming what I’d like to call the “American Reality,” is key to the success of every American. Courtney Martin said it best her TED Talk: “the nine-to-five no longer works for anyone. Punch clocks are becoming obsolete, as are career ladders. Whole industries are being born and dying every day.” We now live in a world where the systems that influence the success or failure of the economy change every day. 2018 is much more fast-paced than 1922. Hard work and dedication should still apply to getting anywhere any American wants (that’s the part of the American Dream that works and makes us who we are as a nation). But we need to realize that isolationism and white picket fences divide us. Division no longer works in a country more diverse than the one that was here almost 100 years ago. The division instilled in the United States from that century is hurting everyone today. These things, along with money, are what define most people today instead of themselves.
Secondly, we can change what kind of economy serves our people. We don’t just alter the system that motivates so many of us here and so many who come here because of it. We change who the economy works for as well. We make it so that everyone is guaranteed an education; education that is just as good in the Midwest as it is on the East Coast and vice versa. A healthy start and formation of a well-rounded mind is the first step to success for anyone. We must ensure everyone is paying their fair share in taxes. We have to strengthen our social safety net for those who are already struggling and anyone who may fall on hard times. Eliminating long-term poverty will be one of many other steps to pull those out of struggle and put our country back on track.
Some Americans claim my approach to dealing with the issues of income inequality and our lack of social mobility is an attack on corporate America. Many more claim people like me want to hinder American progress with “over-regulation.” That’s simply not the case. I believe wholeheartedly in a government’s responsibility to protect and help those can’t do the same for themselves. Those who obey the law and contribute to both our economy and to our society deserve to be treated with respect and have the ability to do anything they desire. Dreams are for the rest of the world. Realities in which people define themselves and don’t have to worry about what can stop them are what Americans create. Changing reality is what Americans do. Doing just that right now can propel us all to a new, higher level of prosperity for all citizens of this country and once and for all make almost any dream possible.