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John Galbraith’s “The Position of Poverty” and Karen Heimer’s “Race And Women’s Imprisonment: Poverty, African American Presence, And Social Welfare.” are works that examine how poverty and race are intertwined in modern society. Robert Reich’s Why the Rich are Getting Richer and the Poor, Poorer” and Alex Gibney’s Park Ave produce a negative view of how the ultra-wealthy negatively impact the United States. Each of these sources demonstrates the vicious cycle that holds sway over Americans, preventing them living up to the standards of the American Dream. This concept of the American Dream is often characterized by the ability of any person to rise above their status at birth to find a life of well-paying work and home ownership. However, this is not the case for many Americans as they are subjected to unfair elements of the socio-economic system of the United States. Examining these works ultimately reveals that the concept of the American Dream does not exist and that true parity will never occur because of the inability to solve the problems of poverty, racism, and the wealthy elite acting as a relative drain on the American economy.
The inability to realize economic parity in the United States is one of the most significant reasons that the American Dream does not exist. Poverty is a difficult force to deal with on its own merits, but specific challenges make it harder to defeat because the problem cannot be solved by money alone. For example, Galbraith writes “The most certain thing about this poverty is that it is not remedied by a general advance in income” (Galbraith 505). Even if the individuals were given a raise in their jobs, it would not be enough to eliminate the other factors that create poverty. Other challenges exist in conjunction with poverty such as an inability of individuals to have transportation to jobs or housing that is in the general vicinity of work that will sustain the individuals. The vast difficulty in quelling poverty is that “poverty is self- perpetuating partly because the poorest communities are poorest in the services which would eliminate it” (Galbraith 507). The only way to change these communities is to have an influx of money to offer services to those who need it most in the communities. Unfortunately, as the documentary Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream points out, such funds are in the hands of America’s power elite who decide where they would like to place their companies based upon their return on profit rather than offering jobs to the disenfranchised (Gibney). With few jobs available in the impoverished and insular communities, there are few means to generate taxes and revenue in the communities to improve the situation. Unfortunately, money is not the only obstacle to the realization of the American Dream. Often, individuals experience outright discrimination which prohibits them from being able to meaningfully take part in the nation’s economy, effectively negating their experience with the American Dream. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Racism is a force that pervades the economic and judicial systems of the United States, reducing the possibility of equality and diminishing the American Dream. One of the issues that has prevented true equality from occurring in the United States is racism, which manifests in a systematic form of control which disqualifies minorities from experiencing the American Dream. Galbraith argues that minorities tend to be lumped together in the most impoverished regions of the United States due to systematic racism, forming an insular island of poverty (Galbraith 503). The problems within these insular islands of poverty deny many minorities the capabilities to improve their lives and outcomes. The lack of opportunities that are afforded to minorities throughout the United States has led to increased rates of crime and drug and alcohol abuse, which further serves to keep minorities from being able improve their station in life. This systemic form of abuse through a form of de facto segregation creates entire communities who cannot live up to the American Dream.
Racism is also pervasive in the socio-economic realities of America and prevents minorities from being able to pursue the American Dream. According to the article “Race And Women’s Imprisonment: Poverty, African American Presence, And Social Welfare”, a lack of economic opportunities in minority communities is one of the greatest obstacles to the American Dream because it feeds into crime in those areas. Heimer and others establish that African Americans are arrested at a much higher rate than any other race within the United States due to overtly racist police tactics and systematic racism that has concentrated African Americans in poverty-stricken urban centers (Heimer et al 223).The confluence of poverty and racism leads to single-parent families due to an increasing prevalence of women being imprisoned in those communities (Heimer et al 224). Single-parent households are more likely to produce individuals who do not achieve or excel in education, and are more likely to utilize welfare benefits due to poor economic possibilities. This interplay between race and poverty results in a cycle of poverty in areas that do not receive economic development. Examining the reason that economic possibilities are not available to these impoverished communities provides a final piece of evidence for the absence of the American Dream. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
The wealthy, elite capitalists who once buttressed the American economy have forsaken the nation in pursuit of globalization and increased profits, effectively preventing any potential resurgence in the American Dream. This downfall of the American economy occurred because the wealthy capitalists abandoned inner city centers of production. According to Reich “The boat containing routine producers is sinking rapidly. Recall that by midcentury routine production workers in the United States were paid relatively well.” (Reich 516). The production workers in cities such as Detroit and Pittsburgh had their jobs disappear as companies and corporations sought their wealth in other centers of production. The individuals who are left behind in the formerly bustling centers are not left without jobs. This occurred in many predominantly minority communities, reducing the amount of money available to the community through taxes. After all, taxes are the lifeblood of a community that makes economic possibilities a reality. Thus, two problems come into being. First, the citizens do not have the money from which to draw taxes. Secondly, the companies that do remain in the areas are receiving massive tax breaks in an effort to keep the few remaining jobs in the community. These results of the capitalist society which abandons former workers is the ruination of the working class’ ability to pursue the American Dream.
The lack of capital being invested into communities as a result of the unjust economic system also shows that the American Dream does not exist. The results of the aforementioned lack of taxes being infused into poor communities throughout America are covered in the documentary, Park Ave, “We can’t keep our schools functioning, we can’t keep our roads intact. Taxes are the price you pay for civilization. If you don’t pay taxes, you don’t get civilization” (Gibney). In other words, the collapse of the urban centers has led to a system where the people become trapped in poverty. This issue is compounded by the fact that the wealthy feel no desire or need to invest in the communities that they used as labor for decades. This hearkens back to the idea that was expressed by Galbraith, who described the poverty as a problem which is self-perpetuating because the communities do not have the resources to halt the problem (Galbraith 507). This general inequity between the wealthy and the poor shows that there is such a tremendous gap in fairness that the American Dream could not possibly exist for everyone.
Even though the American Dream appears to be diminished, many Americans are still optimistic about its existence. According to John Zogby, 59% of Americans believe that their hard work and intelligence, combined with America being the land of opportunity, will lead to their success (Zogby). It is important to realize that this study took place during the Great Recession period, where many Americans were losing their homes and jobs. Despite this, Americans believe that the present socio-economic system would allow them to continually improve their life. The unflinching dedication of a nation that was in economic free fall shows that enough people are meeting or exceeding their own expectations in life, which is one of the tenets of the American Dream.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Based upon the conclusions drawn from the works examined, the American Dream does not exist and that parity will never occur for citizens of the United States because of the inability to solve the problems of poverty, racism, and the wealthy elite acting as a relative drain on the American economy. The American Dream is roughly based on the idea of equality in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, these elements have never been equal for all citizens on an economic and racial level. Therefore, not only is it possible to argue that the American Dream is no longer in existence, it is a more succinct argument that such a system never existed except for the middle class that is now feeling the same pressures and disappointment wrought upon the impoverished and minority groups.
Galbraith, John. “The Position of Poverty” A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers, edited by Jacobus Lee, Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2013, pp.499-512.
Heimer, Karen, et al. “Race And Women’s Imprisonment: Poverty, African American Presence, And Social Welfare.” Journal Of Quantitative Criminology 28.2 (2012): 219-244. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.
Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream. Dir. Alex Gibney. 2012. Online.
Reich, Robert. “Why the Rich are Getting Richer and the Poor, Poorer”.A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers, edited by Jacobus Lee, Bedford/St.Martin’s,2013, pp.513-532.
Zogby, John. “The American Dream Is Still Strong.” Forbes. Forbes, 28 Jan. 2009. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.