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Has the American Dream Changed?

Symbols of Americana were on display all around Elk Grove on Monday, but is the American dream still achievable in the current day and age? Share your thoughts and stories.

Driving around Elk Grove over the Memorial Day weekend, it might have been difficult to miss the signs of Americana and patriotism on display. , barbecues, and those paying their respects to America's fallen veterans - it seemed people chose not only to celebrate a holiday, but celebrate a vision of America, or more accurately, celebrate their vision of America.

The custom of decorating a soldier's grave in America dates back before the Civil War era and was incorporated into an official holiday in 1865. It would seem that tradition has changed little. Indeed, the idea of celebrating America and those who have helped define and maintain that definition is an art in and of itself. The story of decadence amidst the backdrop of a post-World War I America fueled the creative mind of F. Scott Fitzgerald's seminal novel The Great Gatsby. Alternatively, author Hunter S. Thompson wrote of American depravity on display during the . The messages either spoke in celebration of or in tribute to an altruistic vision of America.

However, times have changed many things in America, including, perhaps, our fundamental ideas of what makes America, well, America. The American Dream for many was not only a standard of living, it was perhaps a promise to all Americans: If you followed a certain set of guidelines or rules, you too could earn a competitive income, support a family of four, have two cars, picket fences, trips to Bermuda ... you get the picture. There was optimism. There was reason to believe the hard work and long hours would someday pay off.

Does that vision still hold true today? According to a National Public Radio report, those who still believe in the American Dream may be those who have probably already attained it. For the ones struggling, though, it may be a different story.

According to the US Census, the average man working full-time today is making 10 percent less money last year than he did a decade ago.

The idea raises many questions: Like author Jack Kerouac once pondered, "Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?" Has that idea of the American Dream been lost? Can it be restored? Are we seeing the beginning of a new era for the American Dream and what it means?

Elk Grove, tell us your stories here.

M.Legison May 30, 2012 at 07:31 PM
It is hard enough to remain positive in a terrible economy without much relief in clear view without the president and administration telling us every day that we need "them" and the government to restore the American Dream. Once government gets out of the way, even just a little, we will see more business starts and optimism. Know that Obama does not want us to be successful on our own. That is his plan, to make government the guiding light with an iron hand, and always has been. We as a nation are stronger than he is. Keep the faith and keep working towards freedom and independence.
nmedina May 31, 2012 at 01:38 AM
I believe we are seeing an evolution of the American Dream, where owning a home no longer is a given. Maybe what we are seeing is the American Reality instead: stiffer employment competition, lower wages, and longer hours. On top of this there are predatory businesses who will nickel and dime Americans for the little money they have (banks, check cashing businesses, car loans, etc.). Americans themselves are to blame for allowing themselves to get into debt (myself included), thinking this is the "American Way", only to see all sorts of businesses eating away at our money because we want what we want now. To overcome these challenges, Americans need to educate themselves regarding personal finance to help themselves survive in this new reality. I recommend looking up Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course. There I learned how to manage my money and recognize when a predatory business was trying to get my money. By taking this course I have taken the reins of my financial future. I will be debt free by July and will finally be able to save for a house.
M.Legison May 31, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Terrific piece, nmedina. Be proud that you've accepted personal responsibility and have been willing to become educated in matters that help you work toward financial independence.
Mark Paxson May 31, 2012 at 02:34 AM
"Know that Obama does not want us to be successful on our own. " How do you come up with this stuff? The "American Dream", whatever that is, has been eroding for decades, primarily because government has been "getting out of the way" -- lowering the tax burden on the wealthy and on corporations, eliminating regulations that protected the economy from the type of "crisis" that occurred a few years ago, and because corporations no longer believe it is important to take care of their employees because the bottom line is more important (see the destruction of private pensions) and all you can do is point fingers at Obama. Just once I'd like to see you engage in one of these discussion without pointing the finger to the current President as though he is responsible for all of the ills that exist in our country, including the ones that predated his Administration. Somehow I think I'll be waiting a while.
M.Legison May 31, 2012 at 04:14 AM
You really have no clue about the effects taxation or regulations, do you Mark? Have you been so corrupted by the liberals that have taken this state to near bankruptcy that you cannot recognize the structural errors and deficits, now replete in both state and national policies? California is the laughing stock of the nation. Are you proud to be a part of the administration, Mark?
Mark Paxson May 31, 2012 at 01:44 PM
M. ... as usual, you shift the discussion to something else rather than respond. Here's an idea ... let's take the level of taxation, at both the state and national level, to where it was under Clinton. That would erase what you describe as the structural problems (which I agree exist). It would provide stable funding for government and it would provide certainty for taxpayers. You see, I think that's far more important -- yes, stability. The knowledge that taxes will be at xx level and that the revenue will be sufficient to cover governmental needs. Clinton's balanced budget was one significant reason for the boom of the '90's. Think about what has to happen if investors no longer have Treasuries to invest in to fund the federal government. That money has to go somewhere. In the '90's it went into business, innovation, etc. Now, it's back to Treasuries -- something President Bush started with all of his tax cuts. So, yes, let's fix the structural deficits that exist at both the state and national level. And, by the way, I'm not a part of the Administration. Maybe you need to take a civics lesson. I'd also suggest you compare spending, revenue, and deficits under Obama with those under his immediate predecessor and maybe change your tun about whether he is the big government liberal you keep portraying him as.
stone May 31, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Well done. We as Americans have way too much debts. Even young kids out of college owe anywhere from $40K to $100K is a norm.
M.Legison May 31, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton (yes Mark, Clinton), and Bush all jumpstarted the economy with tax cuts. In Clinton's case his original tax hike failed to produce net increased Treasury receipts, so under the new GOP Congress he lowered cap gains and the economy went off. Clearly that was not the only reason but T income showed a marked increase. After Bush cut, the T had it's biggest year ever. My biggest fear isn't the PIT increase on the horizon for 2013 but the capital gains increase combined with whatever California is going to do. Also, Bill Clinton has recommended a decrease in the cooperate tax rate to become internationally competitive. Sometimes it's more than the marginal rates that can affect the sentiment. The current Administration's hatred of capitalism and profits without redistribution is painfully obvious, and our center right nation is not comfortable with those positions. This statement circles back to the original question about the American Dream.

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