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Americans still believe in Dream

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Rocky Mountain News, September 12, 1995

“The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. Personal incomes are stagnant. The American Dream is dead.”

This is now the mantra of Democratic leadership in Congress and the White House — and of many media mavens. But there’s a problem. None of it is true.

Census data clearly show the rich are getting richer, but so are the poor. In the old days that was called prosperity, which is not a bad way to describe what is going on today.

Let’s examine stagnant incomes that many economists have been observing since 1973. The fact is, most incomes, examined in terms of age groups, are rising. Result: Many of these same experts will soon be talking about America’s “unexplained” and “surprising” increase in personal income. Reason: America’s 78 million baby boomers are now moving into their high wage-earning years. The first boomers reach 50 next year, but most are still in the 30s and early 40s. Incomes have been “stagnant” because the large number of boomers in their low-income years have been a drag on national averages. The problem is not with the economy. The problem is too many economists who don’t pay attention to demographics.

Now comes new evidence about the American dream: It’s alive and well, according to a recent poll by Media Strategies Research, a Colorado and Washington, D.C.-based media market and public opinion analysis group. Media Strategies recently asked a scientifically-selected sample of 700 Louisianians (error less than 3.5%) to react to “two different view points people have about their family’s financial security in the years ahead:

“1. Smith believes that he and his family will be in good shape financially in the years ahead, and that his current job will help them enjoy the good things in life.

“2. Jones believes that he and his family feel like they are stuck in the same place and can’t ever seem to get ahead financially. Jones feels that it seems that the only way for them to do better in the years ahead and enjoy the good life is if something big happens, like winning the lottery or winning a big lawsuit.

“Whose viewpoint do you tend to agree with more: Smith or Jones.”

The responses were dramatic. More than three out of five white respondents (62%) agreed with the Smith description — and 42% agreed strongly. Not surprisingly, percentages in agreement with Smith were very high among white professionals (75%), management (73%) and white-collar workers (76%), but Smith also garnered 58% or more among white blue-collar workers. While three out of four white Republicans agreed with Smith, so did two out of three white Democrats and Independents.

Even among blacks, Smith won (52%), including a majority of younger black people (under 50) and a majority of older blacks. Smith failed to win a majority only among black males (48%), yet only 38% agreed with Jones (the rest were mixed or undecided).

Union members (61%) and state and local government employees (74%) of both races agreed with the Smith description.

What we have here is growing evidence that class warfare appeals advocated by many political analysts are wrong, and elected officials who take their advice will continue to lose at the polls. Americans of both races are a resilient, optimistic, can-do people with a lot of confidence in their future. The American Dream is real.

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