On August 22, 2016, U.S. News & World Report published the sobering article, “Dream On: Growing inequality has made the American ‘rags to riches’ story more myth than reality.”
While the Labor Department boasts about an unemployment rate of approximately 5 percent, the reality is that the statistic ignores the plight of tens of millions of working age Americans who have given up looking for work and are therefore not a part of the labor force.
Furthermore, that 5 percent unemployment figure does not note how many American workers are underemployed or working at part-time jobs.
The original concept of the “American Dream” depended on the growing middle-class where anyone who was willing to acquire a good education and work hard might write the next “American success story.”
Prior to World War II, the immigration laws of the United States were enforced by the Labor Department and were designed to shield American workers from foreign competition. The politicians of “The Greatest Generation” understood that for America to succeed, Americans needed to succeed.
Back then, major U.S. corporations saw in American school children their future employees and made certain to provide scholarships and training programs to entice American students to pursue studies in what is now referred to as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines.
Today, most major corporations have morphed into multinational companies that no longer say a “Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag and to the republic for which it stands…” but to the bottom line.
The result has been to make it more difficult for American workers to move up the economic ladder to attain their thin slice of “The American Dream.”
This is not limited to unskilled and semi-skilled workers either.
Consider this excerpt from the U.S. News & World Report article that was predicated on a recent study by Michael Carr and Emily Wiemers of the University of Massachusetts, published at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth:
“Many factors probably contribute to the slow but significant decrease in mobility. These same factors reduce the value of college education, even as the cost of college has increased greatly. Globalization reduces the earning power of even educated workers, for example as computer programming moves offshore. Changes in work structures take earning power away from even the most highly educated: For example individual physicians earn less than they did, while more goes to the large health care providers that employ them. Even knowledge-intensive jobs can be automated, with investment advisers now facing competition from computer programs that allocate capital. Finally, with growing inequality, the rungs on the economic ladder are farther apart, so it takes a bigger increase in earnings to jump from one rung to another.
“As inequality mounts, and our society slowly becomes more stratified, political unrest will increase. This unrest has transformed the presidential election campaign. Regardless of who wins, the pressure will grow to find more equitable ways to expand opportunities and to share the wealth that results.”
While the report noted off-shoring of high-tech jobs as a contributing factor, it must also be pointed out that, increasingly, more foreign high-tech workers with H-1B visas and foreign students who are provided with increasing time in which to work in the U.S. under the guise of “optional practical training” are displacing ever more American workers and suppressing the wages of all of these professionals.
The only thing “exceptional” about these foreign workers is that they are willing to work for exceptionally low wages under exceptionally adverse conditions.
While Americans at the top of the economic food chain benefit most from profits of their companies, most other Americans find themselves running up a “down economic escalator” that is accelerating.
Consequently more Americans than ever before are finding it increasingly difficult to succeed. They are losing their disposable incomes.
It is not unusual for journalists on talk shows to question why the U.S. economy has not improved. Perhaps the answer they are seeking can be found in the destruction of the middle-class consumer base that traditionally formed the foundation for the demand for goods and services that kept the American economy humming.
This is a classic example of “killing the goose that laid the golden egg.” In point of fact, Americans must do well for America to do well.