The American Dream is that set of ideas that anyone can achieve success, prosperity, and can climb the socio-economic ladder through hard work and the opportunities the United States provides. Throughout the history of our great nation this idea has served as the continuing promise that has made America great and has given hope to millions. But in recent years that hope has turned to despair as a weak economy, high unemployment, and poor job creation have become the rule. Pursuing the American Dream has become challenging to say the least and many are just losing hope.
Five years after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, economic recovery is slow, and millions of Americans are still without employment. The latest numbers out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the lowest unemployment rate since 2008, but the American people aren’t celebrating – they are giving up. Participation in the job market is at its lowest point in 35 years, at only 63.2%. When the discouraged, marginally attached, under employed workers are taken into account the real unemployment rate is closer to 14%.
This hard truth is hurting the prosperity of future generations; in fact, many “Millenials” no longer see the American Dream in the traditional sense, and for many achieving it means surviving this tough economy.
Youth unemployment (ages 16-24) in the Hispanic community alone is at almost 18%. Overburdened with an average of over $26,000 in student debt and little prospect of finding of a job, many in this age group have been forced to redefine the American dream, as columnist Adan Levine covers well here.
A study by Credit.com found that 1 in 4 between the ages of 18 and 24 say being debt free is the American Dream for them. For many others, financial survival equals success and the American Dream is about staying “above water.”
Sadly even financial survival has become a challenge as more Americans are finding difficult it to provide for their basic needs. In fact, since this Administration took office, the number of folks receiving food stamps has grown from 33 million to more than 47 million, and recently Gallup found that during the month of August 20% reported not having enough money to afford food for their families – close to the peak of 20.4% set in November of 2008.
Enough is enough. We need Washington to take a stand and take steps to fix our economy and bring Americans back to chasing the real American Dream of prosperity. When the recession began in 2007, there were 1.8 job seekers for every available job. Today, there are 3.8 people vying for the same opportunity. Washington must focus on putting Americans back to work by implementing policies that are going to create paying jobs, and encourage economic growth. The American Dream should not be about mere survival or dependence on government, it should be about prosperity and upward mobility.