Saturday, June 10, 2006

Wake up: the American Dream is over

In “Wake up: the American Dream is over,” Paul Harris of The Guardian (U.K.) examines the plight of working class Americans. Calling America the land of extremes, Harris observes:

“America has some of the worst urban sprawl in the world and also the most beautiful and well-protected wildernesses. Its politics is awash with lobbyist inspired corruption. Yet passionate political engagement among millions of Americans puts many other countries to shame.”

Sadly, however, Harris rhetorically asks:

“So in this land of black and white, we should not be too surprised to find some of the biggest gaps between rich and poor in the world. Such a yawning chasm is just the American Way, it would seem. Besides, the American Dream offers a way out to everyone. All someone has to do is work hard and climb the ladder towards the top. No class system or government stands in the way.”

Not so, Harris concludes, supporting his conclusions with startling statistics:

“Over the past 25 years the median US family income has gone up 18 percent. For the top one percent, however, it has gone up 200 percent. A quarter of a century ago the top fifth of Americans had an average income 6.7 times that of the bottom fifth. Now it is 9.8 times. Inequalities have grown worse in different regions. In California, home to both Beverly Hills and the gang-ridden slums of Compton, incomes for lower class families have fallen by four percent since 1969. For upper class families they have risen 41 percent.”


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