by Frank Li
Have you seen the recent Time magazine cover (July 2, 2012) on the right? What an important subject! Its inside is even better, with the cover article entitled “Keeping the Dream Alive”, by Jon Meacham.
Unfortunately, like many good articles in America’s established media today, Meacham’s article falls short of being great, largely because it fails to recognize the root cause of many American ills. It therefore falls short of possibly offering any real solution to “keeping the dream alive”.
To have a real solution, we must have a truthful diagnosis first (e.g. Diagnosis for America: Cancer!), which requires being honest with ourselves. One simple truth is that American Dreams have been over sold and over bought!
Today, the notion of the “American Dream” is often accompanied by the notion of the “middle class”. So let’s define these two terms first. According to Meacham’s article,
- American Dream: It is the “perennial conviction that those who work hard and play by the rules will be rewarded with a more comfortable present and a stronger future for their children.”
- Middle class: Middle class families are defined by “their aspirations more than their income. Middle-class families aspire to homeownership, a car, college education for their children, health and retirement security and occasional family vacations.”
2. American Dreams: my view
Many people, Americans or not, can have American Dreams, from coming to the U.S. to “make it”, to President Obama’s early dream of “Someday I want to be President,” to hitting a mega-lottery tomorrow …
In short, I consider myself a modern-day example of an American Dream come true, and I can’t emphasize more that not all American Dreams are good for America.
3. American Dreams: what went wrong?
Some American Dreams went wrong because America went wrong. America went wrong because America failed to adapt to the changing times. For more, read:
Bottom line: America, as a country, must ask and answer two basic questions:
- Do other people on earth have the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as Americans do?
- If yes, how can America possibly compete against the emerging economies (Emerging Economies: An Overview from 30,000 Feet), which are joining the fray with hundreds of millions of cheap laborers?
Unless these two questions are answered correctly and corresponding actions taken, America will continue to decline; at this pace, that means there will soon be no more sweet American Dreams left for anyone to pursue.
Unfortunately, rather than asking and answering these two basic questions, American political leaders have largely ignored them. Immune to the changing times, they focus on one thing, and one thing only: “getting re-elected ad nauseam”. How do they keep getting themselves re-elected? Spending more and pandering more, including choosing to whom the same old American Dreams can be dispensed, in exchange for votes …
4. American Dreams: over sold and over bought
Bluntly, American Dreams have been over sold by American politicians in their relentless pursuit of votes, and over bought by the willing Americans who forgot, or never knew, about who we are (e.g. “we are a nation of self-made men”, as per Henry Clay). It’s money for votes, all at the expenses of the long-term well being of America! Four examples:
- Home ownership: At its peak, close to 70% of Americans owned their homes (U.S. Census Bureau News), a ratio boosted by poorly thought out laws (e.g. Community Reinvestment Act) against the free market. Worse yet, many Americans owned homes bigger and better than they could actually afford, resulting in a huge housing bubble that burst in 2008, with little sign of relief in sight to date.
- College education: It’s true that college graduates, in general, earn more than non-college graduates. But everything must follow Pyramid Theory I, with the understanding that only a small percentage can actually make it to the top (Too Many Waiters And Janitors Have Degrees). Today, the total amount of student loans is at more than $1T. This bubble, just as volatile as the housing bubble, will explode in our faces soon (The Student Loan Bubble: Only Stupid People Will Be Surprised When It Bursts)!
- Unemployment: Although the official rate is at 8.2%, the real rate is around 15%. The situation is particularly bad for the young people (e.g. 53% of all young college graduates in America are either unemployed or under-employed).
- State and local government bankruptcy: Read: Stockton, California: Belly Up. More will follow! Who is to blame? Public-sector unions, with President Kennedy being the ultimate culprit (Public-Sector Unions: from Wisconsin to America … )!
Need you have more examples?
Why so wrong? It’s the political system, stupid! We have been sleeping on the same political system for more than 200 years, and it’s getting worse and worse, thanks to “getting re-elected ad nauseam”. It’s time to fundamentally change it by amending the Constitution as I suggested (Towards An Ideal Form of Government)!
An important note: American Dreams should be mostly for the private-sector workers, epitomized by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, two outstanding self-made men! The public-sector workers are “servants”, whose [outsized] American Dreams not only are wrong by definition, but also have been clearly and severely damaging America - There are simply too many “servants” enjoying their American Dreams by living way better than their “masters”! This must be reversed if America wants to have any future (Public-Sector Unions: from Wisconsin to America … )!
Meacham was right in his conclusion that
“This year the choice for President comes at a time when specific ideas about relieving and growing the middle class — education reform and access, for instance — seem less important than the present and the future of the overall economy.”
It should be obvious that we will all be below the “middle class” if our political system fails us, finally and totally.
But where is Meacham’s solution to “keeping the dream alive”? He does not have one!
Here is my solution: Not only is it essential that Governor Romney win in November, but he must follow my suggestion to fundamentally change America’s political system, so as to really “keep the dream alive!” For more, read: An Open Letter to Mitt Romney.
Save America, before it’s too late!
About the Author
Frank Li is the Founder and President of W.E.I. (West-East International), a Chicago-based import & export company. Frank received his B.E. from Zhejiang University (China) in 1982, M.E. from the University of Tokyo in 1985, and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1988, all in Electrical Engineering. He worked for several companies until 2004, when he founded his own company W.E.I. Today, W.E.I. is a leader in the weighing industry not only in products & services, but also in thought and action.