Since the term was first coined in 1931, the mass majority of Americans have bought into the notion of the “American Dream,” where anyone, regardless of background or class standing, can work hard enough to progress in the world and become “successful” in life. This success is often associated with becoming better educated and progressing toward the end goal of homeownership and a high-paying job. For a while, this may have been a fair belief to hold; however, that could not be further from the truth in the modern world as countless obstacles now prohibit individuals from ever truly advancing in life in the aforementioned ways.
For many Americans, the idea of going to college is a pipedream as they cannot afford the growing cost of higher education. For those like myself who are unable to pay upfront for college, they turn toward student loans and gamble on whether or not they will be able to pay them back one day, putting themselves in tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt just to begin the sham that is the American Dream.
This may be one of the reasons why 48% of 18- to 29-year-olds polled recently stated that the American Dream was “dead.” The creator of this poll, John Della Volpe, thinks that this group responded in such a way due to a “government they don’t trust and they don’t think is working for them.”
For those who view college as a waste and would rather just go straight into the workforce and “work hard” enough to move up in the world, it does not always work out that way, as the true purchasing power across the country has been stuck in stagnation since the 1960s. While it may appear that wages have been increasing over time, the true functionality of those wages has remained roughly the same since JFK was in office. All the while, everything has become much more expensive, limiting what people can truly buy. This is evident in the fact that homeownership has remained around the same level for the past 40 years and, as Gen Z and Millennials grow older with less money than previous generations, this statistic will continue to fall.
This is not to say that there aren’t some examples of individuals who break through in life and achieve the success they had been working for. However, for the average American, the notion that, if they simply put their head down and work hard, they will become successful, is disingenuous and offensive to millions who are struggling living paycheck to paycheck. Are these people not working hard enough when they go from their first job to their second job, or when they don’t eat to save money for rent or other bills they have to pay? These people are working hard and fighting for survival daily while the system around them is designed to keep them down and maintain the status quo.
The American Dream is dead and has been for decades, and those who continue to carry this false hope are simply fooling themselves. The facts are obvious: Those born at the bottom in America are most likely to die at the bottom one day, regardless of what they do while alive. Even if they work hard every day of their adult lives, they have no assurances of becoming wealthy or owning property.
It does not have to be this way, though; there are humanistic solutions like free college, housing guarantees and higher wages that could immediately alleviate many of the issues laid forth. While it may seem unpatriotic to believe the American Dream is dead, wanting to fix a system that's failing millions of Americans daily is, in my opinion, the best thing we can do for our country.