Okay, I’ve been working on this argument for years now. You’re welcome to tell me I’m full of it, but please support that assertion with some evidence. The short version goes like this: The American Dream, the idea that every one of us can prosper and succeed and experience upward social mobility if we just work hard enough, was never true for most of us.
The founding fathers, the “haves” of the American colonies, extracted the line about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (happiness included acquisition of material things, like land) from the Declaration of Independence and preached it to the “have-nots” to enlist their hearts, minds and especially their trigger fingers in the fight against Britain. And many of our ancestors answered the call. But when the war was over, the patriarchs expected common people (at least half of whom came here as unlanded, indentured servants) to return to their place at the bottom of the socio/economic ladder.
How serious were the “haves” about that? Look up the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania, during Washington’s presidency, when farmers protested federal taxation of their homebrew (they thought that stuff about no taxation without representation applied to them, too.) The feds and state governors sent 13,000 militiamen to put it down.
Howard Zinn and others, including Pat LaMarche’s recent Daddy, What’s the Middle Class?, have documented repeated efforts of the “haves” to keep the “have-nots” from pursuing those inalienable rights embedded in the American Dream in soul-searing factuality. Yes, there was a brief, exceptional period after World War II when the “haves” needed the “have-nots” to work in their factories, but it’s pretty clear they don’t really need us anymore.
So, most of the ancestors of those who didn’t have much in the first place still don’t, relatively speaking, and those who did still do. The American Dream? Pure fantasy or else one of the most successful propaganda campaigns in the history of the world.
There’s a longer version of this argument that harkens back to the 14th century and factors in how stock markets have allowed the “haves” to keep the “have-nots” from ever getting even, let alone ahead. Maybe I’ll get into that tomorrow.