For many years, the American Dream was characterized as “the land of freedom and opportunity,” where a person could move about untethered and not be beholden to anyone, particularly the government. People were free to try their hand at anything if they were so inclined, thereby encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit. They also realized they had a say in how government was run, unlike several other countries, thereby encouraging citizenship and patriotism. The general belief was that if you worked hard, you could enjoy the fruits of your labor. I personally know this was the case with my grandfather, who immigrated to America following World War I. It was his desire to have a better life and work environment than what he was leaving behind in Great Britain. To him, America was big, opportunities were plentiful, and the sky seemed the limit. After finding work in this country, he moved and settled his family, blended into the community, and never looked back. It was an arduous process to go through, but he was proud to become an American citizen, something millions of other immigrants were proud to do. They were all willing to work hard and sacrifice in order to realize the “Dream.”
I still believe this to be the American Dream, but I fear it is changing. People now come to this country not necessarily for the principles it represents but more for the benefits they can receive, such as health care, education, and other perks such as food stamps and cash, thereby becoming the “land of entitlements” as opposed to opportunity. Such perks are putting a stressful burden on state governments, particularly those in the Southwest whose hospitals and schools are buckling under the strain. The general belief now seems to be that you will prosper, regardless if you work or not.
Aside from illegal immigrants, a class of people has emerged in this country who have found it easier to live on government subsidies as opposed to working. So much so, it has become addictive and, consequently, apathy grows. In essence, they have become wards of the state. This has become glaringly obvious with Native Americans who are dependent on federal subsidies as coordinated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, under the U.S. Department of the Interior. Despite the millions of dollars given to them by the government, they have the lowest life expectancy and the highest poverty level, and where only one in four people have a job. All of this because they sincerely believe the government owes them something.
Helping those in need has changed from a charitable donation to what is perceived as a “right.” It is a harsh reality that as more people embrace the notion of entitlements, fewer people become available to pay for it. Keep in mind that only 51% of the populace pays income taxes today. When this percentage dips below 50%, the money will inevitably run out.
Not surprising, we now live in an era of two distinctly different interpretations of the American Dream, both of which are incompatible. Somehow, I am reminded of John Kennedy’s famous quote at his 1960 inauguration, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
Photo credit: Roger Smith (Creative Commons)
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