The Decline of the American Dream

With telltale signs of the greater depression all around us, especially unemployment, it comes as no surprise that the nation’s belief in the “American Dream” is on the wane. Dot-com bubble, terrorism, wars, real estate collapse… it’s been a tough decade. Providing evidence of the fading American Dream, Zogby International recently found “a significant decline in believers from a year ago and an even bigger drop from 10 years ago.”

According to Forbes:

“On the basic question of whether ‘it is possible for you and your family to achieve the American Dream,’ 57% said it is possible in a Feb. 17 Zogby Interactive poll of 2,031 likely voters. That is a 10-point drop from a similar survey conducted immediately after the 2008 elections. When we asked that question in July 2001, less than two months before the Sept. 11 attacks, 76% said they could achieve it.”

So, even months after the dot-com bubble burst, Americans continued believing in our unique dream. How does the group break out now? The study procedure divided participants up into four groups, and the least hopeful group, the “Dreamless Dead,” has grown the most quickly. Described here…

“I’ve formulated four categories of American Dreamers: Traditional Materialists who define it as material success; Secular Spiritualists, who see it more through spiritual fulfillment; Deferred Dreamers, who believe their children are more likely to attain it than they are; and finally the Dreamless Dead, who say neither they nor most middle-class Americans can achieve it materially or spiritually.

“Compared with November 2008, the first three categories remained stable. The percentage of Dreamless Dead jumped from 12% to 20%. We found this pessimism increasing across all demographic groups.”

Given the government-induced rebound in the economy, you would think that more Americans could have hope. However, perhaps underlying the false recovery is a deeper understanding that it’s a sham that has only been good for the markets, and it doesn’t have any legs in the real economy.

The article describes a final disappointment…

“More alarming may be the self-fulfilling prophecies that this skepticism cultivates. For the economy, people are more likely to hunker down and diminish any chance that consumer spending will restart the economy. For government, cynicism moves people away from the process, pushing political discourse further to the extremes and making government even more dysfunctional and less responsive that it already is.”

As we well know, it’s already mighty dysfunctional… and yet government could still get worse. Read more about the Dreamless Dead and the other groups in Forbes’ coverage of a loss of faith in the American Dream.


Rocky Vega,
The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning