These claims about the American past are either untrue or misleading. America has always had laws providing for the poor. The real difference between the Founders’ welfare policies and today’s is over how, not whether, government should help those in need. Neither approach has a monopoly on compassion. The question is: What policies help the poor, and what policies harm them?
That answer was particularly noteworthy given the persistent concerns among economists and politicians from both parties about a growing gap between the wealthiest Americans and the middle class.
Conservatives today sometimes make the same mistake that liberals make about America’s past. Reacting to what they regard as the excesses of the modern welfare state, conservatives tend to assume that poor relief in early America was entirely private. They continue to echo Barry Goldwater’s statement in The Conscience of a Conservative, written before he ran for President in 1964: “Let welfare be a private concern. Let it be promoted by individuals and families, by churches, private hospitals, religious service organizations, community charities and other institutions that have been established for this purpose.” Goldwater apparently did not realize that the Founders would have rejected such a policy as heartless.
At some moment, our team joined a young guy from the Eastern Europe who said that he has been brought to the US by an exchange program for a couple of months to earn money. He did not look very satisfied with his duties and responsibilities, although he tried to stay cheerful and optimistic. After approximately a month, he just quit saying that such type of work did not coincide with his perceptions of a better-paid job. On the one hand, this could be viewed as a frustration in the American dream: a person expected to obtain a nice job with a good salary but worked with people from the lower social classes instead. However, he said he would like to come back to the US once and try again. As one can notice, the aspiration of the foreigners to become a part of the American community and prove that the American dream really exists is ineradicable.
Some years ago, I spent my summer vacations working as a sales assistant in a large food store that offered a full range of products. I was responsible for the department mostly with fresh and frozen meat. My duties included cutting, chopping, wrapping, and placing labels on the products, each specifying the product type. My uniform was pretty awkward: a green T-shirt and a white overall that probably resembled what the workers in the morgue wore. I had to work eight hours daily with occasional overtimes. On the weekends, I could have my days-off, however some of my colleagues worked non-stop. I suppose these people were using the opportunity to earn more – on weekends their wages were 1.5 times higher. At that moment, I suppose, they were closer than me to the accomplishment of the American dream.
Let me now refer this experience to the concept of American dream. A strong contributor to the development of societal norms in America is Barbara Ehrenreich, a contemporary American writer who aims at exposing the society by the means of personal interaction with the less successful categories of population (Jeffrey 411). The author has always been promoting positive attitude toward the position in society and opportunities associated with it. “So, you’re unhappy about your job; you have a right to be unhappy about that”, claims the author in an interview (Conniff 34). In her works, she emphasizes on the rents of society that seem to have strong effect in all aspects of life. She does not talk about the people who live happily because they represent the minority of the US citizens. She contributes to the American dream in the form of support to the working class that is usually a victim of social and economical processes. If native citizens experience difficulties in employment and struggle for the work benefits, then visitors and immigrants may probably have even worse situation within the given issue. Besides, the world economic crisis has negatively affected the employment rates in the country depriving many people in various industries from their work places. Many of them now are far more distant from the accomplishment of the American dream than they have been before.
Now I would like to express my commitment to the idea of American dream and briefly describe my negative work experience. Some may think of this experience as of something providing a push toward the perspective future, some may not agree. In any case, this is our contemporary reality that forms our perceptions of what we pursue and what we would like to achieve.
But even in the times of stable economics in the country, the values of Americans are sometimes neglected, that’s why people have to transform their visions and adapt. According to Wright (199), the values of the people are not pure anymore for that there is certain confusion about them. People now try to fulfill their American dream artificially. Material belongings are viewed as indicators of achievement, that’s why people feel themselves accomplished after they gain them. Finally, they create the image of a cloudless future still being employed as blue-collar workers and continuously paying out the credits for what they have recently purchased. The foreigners have their own vision as well: they buy souvenirs with the American symbolics, make photos at the places of cultural heritage, and boast to their friends upon returning home. The brand of the United States is so powerful that millions of people feel they are ready to leave their homes for America and future perspectives as a consequence. Annually, they apply for the Green Card Lottery to have the possibility to stay and work in the USA legally (USA Green Card Lottery). Apparently, many of them will be disappointed after some time as well as the young man from the Eastern Europe has been.
I believe that the American dream is alive and well.
The definition of the American dream is: a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success.
It is a well-known fact that the term “American Dream” first mentioned by James Trusslow Adams in 1931 (Wright 197) explains the model of an individual’s ideal existence, which is applied exclusively to the US – the country full of freedoms, possibilities, and opportunities. Nowadays the fame about the American dream reached all continents, and more and more people take the concept for granted dreaming about moving to America and spending the rest of their lives in a more favourable environment compared to their own. As many US citizens, they usually ignore the fact that hard work has always served as a background in the given concept (Warschauer) and look forward to gain all amenities of existence at once.
Let me revert to my past job experience. I could judge the people around me according to my own situation. The work conditions and the salary were equal for anyone of us, the work benefits were not even worth mentioning – there were virtually none. I could say that I was not about to fulfill the American dream then, neither they were. After this job, I would say that thousands or even millions of people can live this way and will not probably make further steps to improve their social status. For some of them, it is rather affordable to live like this because such way of life does not involve any abrupt actions and intentions to change. It is well-known that people do not like changes and rather prefer to avoid them by all means. That’s why they blame government and society for what they have not achieved in life, while they do the same routine work at the same work place for the same salary. Barbara Ehrenreich has similar opinion, which is obvious on the basis of the interviews with blue-collar workers at the low-paid jobs. According to Cass (411), the writer has been experiencing different types of occupations throughout her own life in order to understand the perspective of the less successful individuals. As she found out, only relentless management and amount of salary could serve as the impulsive drivers to change the work place and the way of life. Primarily, she wants to communicate to us that positive attitude is a driver toward achievements. She says that success comes from “shaking off self-absorption and taking action in the world” (Enhrenreich). However, she does not provide the audience with many effective hints about how to increase personal wealth or achieve higher positions in the society. People choose their own way, and probably someone’s American dream does not reflect the position in the society or the wealth obtained.
Some alternate opinions may say statements like, “The American dream is dead,” or,” The American dream is only accessible to the rich.” These ideas are flawed for many reasons.