The Not So American Dream: Inequality Associated with Immobility – Steve Rattner

by gradycarter

If you are reading this you are to some degree or another and consumer. As we live in a capitalistic society, that is fueled by consumers, measuring citizens ability to consume can largely inspire conversation about the true freedom of the citizenry. For decades, particularly the ones in the mid-20th century, consumption (i.e.: driving the car you want, or even just using the cleaning products you might prefer) could be, and has been tied to our nation (and increasingly our world’s) own personal measuring stick of success. Buying power can be conflated with democracy, and people get what it is that they want, regardless of it’s effects on the overall well-being of society – which can be evidenced by things like Cinnabon, and reality television.

Regardless of the consequences of that our wallet shaped ballots can cause us our nation specifically seems to value it’s ability to participate in a “free-market” oriented economy. We refer to this financially stable citizen paradigm as the “American Dream”, which I believe has shifted measurably. I believe that the values of the American public have shifted, which could be measured by observing how our purchasing trends change, but also I believe that the ability to purchase has shifted enormously, which I don’t find to be a simple conspiracy (it’s complicated). Sure, a lot of people in the United States have less money because they don’t work as hard as the maybe used to, but that is an over-simplification. People in the country in general have less money because they also have jobs that have been made more efficient, while the pay rates are not equally increased – but again this is just a part of the picture. Maybe the most impactful factor in regards to a growing wealth gap has been technology, and the replacement of workers by machines and computers. This last one can very clearly be seen in this chart looking at a splitting in correlation of growth from productivity to wages.

Connecting a shift in wages, and productivity is a very important thing to do, but not necessarily just to blame or point fingers at anyone. We just have to be honest with ourselves. Steve Rattner always has wonderful economic charts to help explain what’s going on in this crazy world. These charts below tell a story of how it seems the American dream doesn’t seem quite as American as it used to.