The American dream defined by writer James Truslow Adams is “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.”
Is this American dream still possible today, regardless your social class or circumstance of birth? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, it is not. In the U.S. in 2016, 9 percent of white people live in poverty, compared to 22 percent of black people and 20 percent of Hispanic people.
Regardless of your race or ethnicity, income inequality in the U.S. has been growing steadily for the last 30 years. America’s top 10 percent now average more than nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent. Americans in the top 1 percent average over 40 times more income than the bottom 90 percent. Americans at the top 0.1 percent take in over 198 times the income of the bottom 90 percent.
Maybe there’s a new definition of the American dream. Financial adviser Suze Orman described it as “... you get more pleasure out of saving than you do spending; you live below your means but within your needs. You aren’t spending every penny, you aren’t impressing people, you can sleep at night and you’re actually happy.”’
What’s your idea of the American dream? Come see “Dream On” on Thursday, July 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the Canticle, 841 13th Ave. North, Clinton. This film investigates the reality of the American dream after decades of rising income inequality and declining economic mobility. Is the American dream still alive and well in the 21st century or was comedian George Carlin right when he quipped, “It’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
Lori Freudenberg is the community outreach director for the Sisters of St. Francis.