Joseph Cotto, 7/1/2014 [Archive]

Shattering the American Dream

By Joseph Cotto

It's not up for debate that our country is losing ground on the world stage — at least as far as economic and military power are concerned. But what is debatable is how we should react.

Aaron Clarey, author of the popular ebook "Enjoy the Decline," believes America's fiscal house has been out of order far too long to simply spruce it up again.

America's unemployment rate hovers at almost six and a half percent, though far more are underemployed with little hope in sight. Dependence on public assistance is skyrocketing, and race relations have been set back several years since Trayvon Martin's fatal shooting.

All of this is just the tip of a colossal iceberg, but the point makes itself.

Clarey, a popular economist who is also a fossil-hunter and dancer, thinks the fundamentals of American life are well out of step with financial realities. People wish to have a spouse, comfortable house in the suburbs, nice cars, and, of course, children. While this noble aspiration has become a staple of U.S. culture, if it cannot be financed, then it is nothing more than a fantasy to pass the time.

The reality which one will wake up to hardly resembles what most would describe as the American Dream. Rather, it is a scenario in which college students saddled with six-figure debt work jobs designed for high-schoolers. It is a scenario in which multinational banks receive excessive government bailouts after they wrecked the housing market with predatory loan schemes.

It is a scenario in which the government itself encourages more responsible banks and mortgage firms to ease their lending policies so people who can't afford expensive things will be able to.

Of course, these folks won't be able to keep their possessions-on-credit for long. After the inevitable economic meltdown, debt collectors aren't going to shrug and drive off into the sunset.

The most startling revelation here is that people learned nothing from the last recession, which is supposedly over, though hardworking Americans haven't seemed to notice. Already, the public sector is ready to repeat the same steps which brought about the 2008 financial crisis.

Why? Simple - people want easy money. They are willing to vote for politicians who will make it available, and certain businesses who are set to receive sweetheart deals donate to those same politicians.

Obviously, the more easy money there is, the less whatever currency it was printed in is worth, and the closer once-mighty nations inch to armageddon. The facts have not mattered for quite awhile, though, so this point should summarily fall by the wayside.

Clarey is of the opinion that productive people should stop trying to turn the ship around, so to speak, and simply accept America's malaise. He believes that resistance to an existence where the takers overwhelm the makers is, essentially, pointless.

Considering how welfare-to-work has been relaxed so the program is barely effective, and how generational public subsidy recipients can game the system by having more and more kids, it is difficult to refute him.

Clarey is also concerned about America's devolving culture, but not from the standpoint of a Jerry Falwell or Rick Santorum disciple. In a nutshell, Clarey seems to think that many people have no desire to build the quality of life for themselves which preceding generations did. This, in turn, causes the lion's share of modern America's social problems.

Can America feasibly be brought back to the days of its economic glory; namely the mid-twentieth century?

This would require the manufactured goods we buy to be not only assembled, but made here. It would mean that consumers are no longer able to buy a millionaire's house on a middle class budget. Essentially, our society's mainstream would have to focus on its true priorities.

Are contemporary Americans mature enough to do that? Finding the answer appears none too difficult. The answer itself, though, could very well be devastating.

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Copyright 2014 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at joseph.f.cotto@gmail.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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