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End of the American Dream - more difficult to climb the social ladder in the US

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A sign at a deserted construction site
You probably don't need to be told this, and I’d rather not be the messenger, but nonetheless it’s a fact -- climbing the social ladder in the United States is actually harder than in Europe now.

Think about that for a minute. That's a reversal of everything that the U.S. has stood for in the European imagination, for centuries. That's big news.

According to a new report from the non-partisan Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), social mobility between the generations is now dramatically lower here in the U.S. than in Europe and many other developed nations.

In terms of America itself, that's not what it says on the label though, is it? America still bills itself as
"the land of opportunity," doesn't it?

But the truth is you'd have much better luck these days in Australia or Canada.
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None of this has happened by accident. At a time when America needs good governance more than at any time in its history, we have a Tea Party, a religious right and all the top Republican presidential candidates telling us that government is actually the problem.

Nonsense. Government can narrow the income and opportunity gap, government can grant you access to affordable health care, government can make a university education achievable, government can set a minimum wage and ensure that the rich pay their fair share for participating in our democracy.

The problem is that many of the better off in our society simply don’t want to pitch in their share.

Instead of reinvestment these days, we have outsourcing, downsizing, union busting and job elimination and the dismantling of every worker protection.

I'd like America to succeed, but I can't see how it can while we're saddled with this kind of capitalistic cannibalism and one political party that seems intent on marching us all the way back to the frontier.
It can be surprisingly hard to explain to an American how great the gulf between the rhetoric and the reality has actually grown over the last 30 years.

Americans seem hardwired to believe the country is exceptional. You can't blame them for wanting to believe that, but it would be foolish to agree now. To an outsider the contrasts are stark.

The truth is America's middle class had already been eroding for three decades before the financial crisis hit during George W. Bush's second term. Currently we have more income inequality now than at any time since the twenties, and that kind of inequality tends to grow.

What that means is that the next generation may be stuck with even less opportunity to get ahead.
It's time we all started discussing this. It's probably not very wise to simply look on as millions of Americans begin to discover they will remain poor, locked into poverty in fact, for the rest of their lives, without imagining there will be profound social consequences for all of us.

It's time we started discussing the threat of downward mobility that so many professional people (our friends and neighbors) are already experiencing as either a threat or a reality.

There has been such a prolonged conservative attack on any levers of social and political redress in America that voters often feel disenfranchised before they even start to agitate for their rights.

Conservatives here claim they don't want America to turn into Europe -- yet Europe now has better economic mobility, infinitely more accessible health care, better environmental standards, higher education standards, and even a higher “happiness" rating.
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So those anchormen on Fox News are selling you a bill of goods. The dream that you'll do better here is on decidedly shaky ground.

Disastrous and seemingly never ending wars waged in countries that didn't attack us, the epic waste of the nation’s resources, the export of jobs and industry to cheaper, less regulated nations . . . the list goes on.

These days a trader on Wall Street makes more in one day than a computer engineer makes in a year.
The trader will get taxed at 15% and the engineer will be taxed at 30%.

The question is, who created more value? The trader enriches himself, does nothing for anyone else, helps no one else, employs no one else and produces nothing of value.

Can it be much longer before we witness Americans emigrating abroad in search of a land of opportunity?

What will the anti-immigrant crowd have to say when it becomes apparent that Americans are now border hopping in search of a better life?

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