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Politics & Election : Trump Says American Dream Is Dead, Is He Right?

Donald Trump has famously declared that the American Dream is dead, but the majority of middle class Americans seem to disagree with the Republican presidential frontrunner.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appears on the NBC “Today” television program in New York , April 21, 2016. (AP Photo)

Sixty-three percent of people surveyed earlier this year believe they are living the American Dream. That finding suggests American optimism hasn’t been a casualty of the recession, despite a report that says 90 percent of Americans are worse off today than they were in the 1970s.

While the income of the top 10 percent has skyrocketed, the rest of Americans are having to make do with less, according to the report from the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, which found that 90 percent of Americans are pretty much earning the same income or even less than they were 40 years ago.


Graphic from “Destabilizing an Unstable Economy” Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

That’s quite a change from the period beginning in the 1940s leading up to 1970s. During that time, real income — the goods and services people can afford today compared to the price of the same goods and services they could have bought in another time period — went up steadily for all Americans.

The widening income inequality gap over the last four decades can seriously affect the economy, according to the report’s authors.

“The transfer of income shares from the middle class and lower income households toward households at the top of the income distribution is a serious drag on demand,” the authors wrote, ”since the saving rate of the latter is much higher than that of the former.”

The Red suggests the American dream is difficult for the average U.S. family with two children to attain today. The real estate website defines the costs of the American dream as including a mortgage, car payment, gas, utilities, food and water for a family of four, four inexpensive restaurant meals each month for the family, one movie for the family and one date night for the parents, with a three-course meal at a mid-priced restaurant.

“The average U.S. household earning a single average wage, or lower, cannot afford the classic American dream,” said Ashley Carlisle of ”In fact, the annual average salary is about $10,000 away from reaching that goal and that doesn’t even include paying off other debts or investments like retirement or college.”

Annual wages of $62,348 are needed to achieve that dream but, in reality, the average American family brings in just $47,598, according to Carlisle.

“That just makes it very difficult, or even impossible, to live out the traditional definition of the dream,” she said. “It could suggest that the confines of the traditional American dream may evolve as new generations begin redefining what they consider living a rich and fulfilling life. It may differ from previous generations given these financial constraints.”

Despite the financial challenges, the majority of Americans still appear to subscribe to the inherent American belief that determination and hard work are the key to personal success, no matter the impact of economic conditions and government policies.

However, there might be a slight dent in that optimism. Despite believing they are living the American dream, 55 percent of Americans surveyed said “raising a family and making sure they have more opportunity than you did” is less achievable today.
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