Saturday, December 15, 2012

Creating and Killing The American Dream

The general election which concluded (mercifully) a month ago reminded us once again about the power of propaganda, and the force of myths that get repeated again and again. And chief among the many myths that permeate the American belief system is the myth that the American Dream is the result of our freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the 1930s, The United States was well on its way to becoming a third world nation, plagued by poverty and desperation. The Federal Government stepped in with numerous programs like the WPA and the CCC and many more, and while these programs didn't totally transform the bleak economic situation into an American Dream, they kept the situation from becoming worse than it was. Then came World War II, and jobs were created in abundance.... all paid for with Federal dollars. It's always worth remembering that military spending is the biggest job creation mechanism of them all.

In the post war years, returning GIs were granted college education opportunities under the GI bill. A college education is one of the main keys to the American Dream. The FHA (the F in FHA stands for Federal) made it possible for a man to buy a house with no money down. Home ownership is another key to the American Dream. Both of these programs were completely funded with government money.

In the 1960s, federal spending absolutely mushroomed with dollars flowing to the Pentagon for the Vietnam War, and to NASA for the space program, and to the Highway Department for construction of the Interstate system. Jobs back then were so plentiful that there was a job for anyone who wanted or needed to work. That's the very definition of the American Dream. And that period in time was the high point of the American Dream.

Contrast those four decades with the last four decades of the 1970s up to the present time. Nobody doubts that the American Dream is dead now. The jobs created in the 1950s and 1960s were outsourced by the millions until the number of jobs left in this country became insufficient to meet the needs of those who wanted to work. That's NOT an American Dream. It's an American nightmare. And here's the irony. The outsourcing was made possible by freedom.... the freedom of corporations to operate without government regulation, and the total freedom to pursue profit above everything else. Freedom, at least at the corporate level, became a dark force rather than a shining light.

I think the case can be made that, back when times were good in this country and the American Dream was a reality, much of the financial and economic impetus was fueled by the Federal Government directing tax revenues right back into the population in the form of jobs. There's a word for that. It's called Socialism.

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