Oh, irony of ironies! We have been accusing the Chinese Mainlanders for years of stealing Americans’ intellectual property with predictably inscrutable results. Now that they have come into possession of the American Dream – some might say, lock, stock and barrel—will our embassy in Beijing present the latest rulers of the Mao Zedong dynasty – Mao Tse-tung to those of us who still romanize Beijing as Peking – with a formal complaint… asking perhaps, to have our Dream back or, at the very least, have them forgive most of the 1.2 trillion dollars which the United States owes them?
A cool trillion for a concept which is not now, nor has it ever been, patentable would be quite a windfall, but it would not save America, a society in economic-inequality free-fall. And until we pinpoint to the reasons why we are in free-fall, we won’t be able to find the ring of logic that will allow the opening of our parachute and a safe landing.
For years some of us have been preaching that the so-called American Dream, if it once existed, was then appearing as nothing more than a myth. Ronald Reagan, touted as the great communicator, articulated this myth quite well making most everyone feel hopeful and proud, while at the same time spreading the most perverse moral disease that can confront any modern day society: the cult of inequality – an inevitable result from the infamous trickle-down economics and the homage to greed. And, for three decades, that’s what we have been living in the United States: a morbid growth in inequality either sponsored or condoned by the leadership in the White House, all following in Reagan’s footsteps: the two Bushes, father and son; Bill Clinton; and now, our fizzle-savior, Barack Obama. The truth is that Americans have been fed by both parties the Great American Lie, while at the same time being humored with the placebo of the American Dream.
Needless-to-say, those of us who have expressed criticism of both the Democratic and Republican establishments, were being referred to as prophets of doom. It made very little difference that the signs of that ever-growing separation between the haves and have-nots were being manifested in everyday life. We were critics in a society sedated and brainwashed by predatory capitalism, which put us in either ridicule or linked us to unpatriotic behavior or even treason. But, finally, a professor from Columbia University and Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, has come out with a book, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, which statistically, and deductively, confirms what was obvious to us all along… without any powers of clairvoyance.
Recent census data and statistical bits from news reports are constantly underlining for us the state of our economy and more importantly the status of our society. And the numbers are grim: half of the nation is in poverty or near-poverty, and the distance between haves and have-nots has widened to an abyss. It isn’t just income inequality that has created this abyss, but opportunity inequality as well. Upward mobility, once the cornerstone of an American cohesive society, is almost non-existent today, due mostly to inequality of access to education and a tax system which obscenely favors the holders of capital over those who produce the goods and services in the nation.
What I find remarkable in Stiglitz’s book is the assertion that the highest level of inequality among the advanced industrial countries is right here, our own proud and lied-to United States: in access to education or class mobility. According to Stiglitz we have become the rear, where once we proudly stood in front. That’s definitely not what Americans want to hear or read, but the professor’s conclusions, well supported by statistical data, are less intended for economic or political rapprochement, targeted instead to addressing the inequality problem that could take the US to a two-class society, a true third world economy. Nothing unpatriotic about warning us!
America once stood as the first land of opportunity and diversity in the largest economic market – that allowed large numbers of individuals to attain success and gain upward class mobility. Unfortunately, in a global economy that’s no longer the case, but there are several emerging economies, nations rich in natural and/or human resources, where many individuals can experience economic success and upward mobility… what we might call their “American Dream.” We should be honored to have the American Dream become the generic term for Brazilians, Chinese, Indians, Russians and others.
By all means, let those people in China who make a great many of the products we consume, fantasize achieving “their American Dream”… they are more prone to attain it than we, in the United States of America, are.
© 2012 Ben Tanosborn
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