12 December 2013
Proposal Final Paper: final Draft
Cure the American Dream
“The phrase ‘American Dream’ was not officially adopted until mid-1930s by author James Thurlow Adams” (Bygrave and Macmillan). However this idea was present long before this time. The motivation for individuals to come to America began with the hopes of religious freedom, and freedom in general. The idea of what the American Dream actually means has morphed into something a little different. The American Dream now focuses greatly on money and material items. The ideal America is one where each generation lives better than the one before; this is done by moving up on the social class ladder. For example, if a child is born in the lower class, to achieve the “American Dream,” the child would need to end up in the middle class by adulthood. This is not likely to happen in the year 2013. Today there is little social mobility in the United States. “More than one-third of Americans believe that it is harder to get rich than it used to be and that it is no longer possible for most Americans to live the American Dream” (Bygrave and Macmillan). The reasons I believe social mobility is difficult and achieving the American Dream is not as easy as it once was is due to many factors. These contributing factors include the misuse of government aid, individuals focusing on a greater meaning in life, and people are not educated on the American Dream.
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of subsidy programs present in the United States; a 44 percent increase since 1990 (Edwards). In the United States today there are more than 1,800 federally subsidized programs (Edwards and Dehaven). These programs include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, subsidized housing, and other types of welfare systems including food stamps and unemployment (“Welfare Programs”). In 2013 an average of 47,636 people were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) (“Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program…”). SNAP is more commonly called food stamps. This is just an example of the number of individuals who are enrolled in a single government aid program. It is obvious that these types of programs are necessary to keep America and people alive, however, there are several problems with these federal aid systems. There are far too many individuals who are taking advantage of these programs. When individuals and families are using the government money when they are not in need of it, they are taking away from those that do. In Indiana an individual that has applied for and has been accepted in the unemployment program can stay on unemployment for a maximum of sixty-three weeks (“Policy Basics: How Many Weeks…”). Illinois and Nevada allow their unemployment users to remain on the government program for seventy-three weeks; the two states that allow the longest amount of time of use (“Policy Basics: How Many Weeks…”).
How does this information relate to the correction of the American Dream? If we made the requirements stricter and the time allowed of use shorter then we would limit the misuse of government assistance. By doing this, we could ensure that the proper and needy people are the ones who are using the aid. We also could prevent individuals from taking advantage of the system. When the government is providing these individuals, who are not in need, with free care then why would they ever want to take care of themselves? Also, if the government is paying an individual more than they would make if they had a job, many will not work (Tanner). Today it is more common and acceptable for families or individuals to be on government assistance. Before it was almost of an embarrassment to be using forms of government aid, but it seems as if individuals feel content with receiving help. There is nothing wrong with receiving help, but eventually a person needs to stand on their own two feet. The American Dream states that with hard work and perseverance a person can move up in society. If we made sure that these programs are not being misused then those who are enrolled in these programs, like unemployment, will be forced to work hard to find a job. By forcing individuals to work hard on their own and help themselves, they can get off these government programs and achieve the American dream.
Another reason why individuals may not be reaching for the American Dream is because they are finding deeper meaning in life. According to Cognitive Behavioral Psychologists, “The setting and pursuit of goals..., lead to satisfaction, happiness, and well-being” (Diener, Kahneman, Nickerson, and Schwartz). In conflict with these views, a Humanistic Psychologist point of view states, “pursuing goals based on extrinsic rewards, the contingent approval of other people, and ‘having’ instead of ‘being’ distract the individual from the meaningful aspects of life, hinder the individual from achieving his or her inherent potential as a human being, and lead to psychological distress” (Diener, Kahneman, Nickerson, and Schwartz). Those who believe in the humanistic approach would be ones who do not want to focus on materialistic rewards and instead focus on the deeper meanings of life. An event that occurred in 2001 had millions of Americans re-evaluating what was important to them. This event was the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001(Bygrave and Macmillan). After the towers fell to the ground and the death a massive number occurred, people realized how short life was and they ultimately gave up on the American Dream. However, this is not entirely a bad thing. Focusing on friends, family, religion, etc., is very important. For a solution to this problem I bring up the issue of family. Most of those who are focusing on “meaningful aspects of life” are generally focusing on family; if family is the focus of the person then providing financially should be a priority. Therefore, even if people are losing focus on material rewards, they should still be striving for the American Dream.
Another issue with the American Dream is that a majority of people are not educated about the topic. As previously stated, the American Dream is the ability to move up on the social ladder through hard work. However, even though an individual works hard does not mean that they are guaranteed to be successful. According to Mara Cohen-Marks and Christopher Stout who wrote, “Can the American Dream Survive the New Multiethnic America? Evidence from Los Angeles,” all individuals have the opportunity to prosper through their own hard work despite their background, ethnicity, or culture (Cohen-Marks and Stout). They also mention that even though this idea leads to great accomplishments, it also leads to tragic disappointments (Cohen-Marks and Stout). Often times if a person is dedicated to their work and they do not succeed, they will give up because they feel as if they deserve to move up in society. If individuals look at the American Dream as something that has a chance of happening, instead of as something that is guaranteed to happen, less individuals would become severely disappointed and they will keep pushing for success.
In 2011, 69 Percent of Americans felt as if it was more difficult to reach the American Dream than it was for the generation before them (Byerly and Maslin). Year after year the percentage of individuals who believe that it is harder to reach the American Dream than their parents increases (Byerly and Maslin). The reason for the increase in percentage is due to the fact that the American Dream is fading away in society. The misuse of government aid, the fact that individuals are focusing on other things, and the lack of education on the topic affect the fallout of the dream significantly. To cure this lack of motivation stricter limits need to be put on government subsidized programs, individuals need to realize that focusing on other things, like family and religion, still play a role in the American Dream, and education for all individuals on the topic needs to occur.
Byerly, Shakari and Maslin, Paul. “Executive Summary – 2011 American Dream Survey.” Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates 24 March 2011. Web. 9 December 2013.
Bygrave, Connie and Macmillan, Scott. “Spirituality in the Workplace: A Wake Up Call from the American Dream.” Saint Mary’s University, Halifaz, Canada 2008. Web. 10 December 2013.
Cohen-Marks, Mara and Stout, Christopher. “Can the American Dream Survive the New Mutliethnic America? Evidence from Los Angeles.” Sociological Forum vol. 26 No. 4. December 2011. Web. 10 December 2013.
Diener, Ed, Kahneman, Daniel, Nickerson, Carol, and Schwartz, Norbert. “Zeroing in on the Dark Side of the American Dream: A Closer Look at the Negative Consequences of the Goal for Financial Success.” Pychological, Science n.d. Web. 10 December 2013.
Edwards, Chris and Dehaven , Tad. “Fraud and Abuse in Federal Programs.” Cato Institute August 2009. Web. 11 December 2013.
Edwards, Chris. “Number of Federal Subsidy Programs is Soaring.” Cato Institute no. 41 October 2006. Web. 10 December 2013.
“Policy Basics: How Many Weeks of Unemployment Compensation Are Available?” cbpp.org 9 December 2013. Web. 11 December 2013.
“Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation and Costs.” Fns.usda.gov. 6 December 2013. Web. 10 December 2013.
Tanner, Michael. “Why Get Off Welfare?” Cato Institute 22 August 2013. Web. 11 December 2013.
“Welfare Programs.” Welfareinfo.org n.d. Web. 10 December 2013.