Thursday, April 14, 2011

The first intermittent blog post is on the new (?) American Dream . . .

My morning's reading about President Obama's deficit speech included a column in the Washington Post by frequent NPR guest pundit, E. J. Dionne. Mr. Dionne, who's what I call a thinking liberal (as opposed to a reactionary liberal) obviously liked what our president had to say, for he called his column "Obama’s deficit speech: Worthy of a president."

In it, Mr. Dionne writes that there were at least four things to like about the president's speech. The second, third, and fourth of these were:
  • "he was willing to talk plainly about raising taxes."
  • "he was right to focus on the need to cut security spending."
  • "he was eloquent in defending Medicare and Medicaid, and he proposed saving money by building on last year’s health-reform law."
It was E.J. Dione's first likable point about President Obama's speech that set me to thinking about the American Dream this morning. Mr.Dionne writes: 
. . .First, without mentioning Rep. Paul Ryan by name, he called out Ryan’s truly reactionary budget proposal for what it is: an effort to slash government programs, in large part to preserve and expand tax cuts for the wealthy. “That’s not right,” he said, “and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.”
Oh, those Bush era tax cuts. I, for one, will be quick to admit that I'm not enough of an economist to talk learnedly about how extending them will help an economy that's been fairly shaky a good part of the time they've been in effect.

What has left me long baffled, however, is listening to people who are not in the least rich defend them. Does this, I wonder, imply some fundamental shift in the good old American Dream? Which I'd always construed as a dream that if one works hard, tries one's best and looks out for others, one will be rewarded with the opportunity for a decent, fulfilling life.

Has that dream become too modest for us non-rich Americans who support continuing tax cuts for the wealthy? Are we, in our heart of hearts, dreaming that someday we, too, will be rich enough to benefit from those tax cuts? Is having enough no longer enough? Furthermore, do we dream that once we get more than enough, we certainly don't want to have to use any of it to fund Medicaid?

To put it simply, has being an American come to mean we're entitled to as much as we can get our hands on without being bothered by pesky taxes?

To me, a country is morally defined by its societal dreams. Has accruing surplus personal wealth really become the great American Dream?

I've got the question. You got an answer?


  1. Well, because the American public have been told that $250k is middle class, and government programs are socialism. Steinbeck nailed it: “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”