What’s The Greatest Threat To The American Dream?

“Cross-national studies show that the U.S. poverty rate, which stands persistently above 12 percent, is not only the highest poverty rate of any advanced industrial nation, but is more than twice the average for that group.” 
―Cal Jillson

Widening wealth disparities are being sensed by a growing plurality of us.  President Obama, in his sixth State of the Union Address, warned that increased inequality poses a fundamental threat to the American dream.  The share of income going to the wealthiest one percent of Americans has doubled from less than 10 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent now, reports USA Today.

The newspaper’s recent survey showed 60 percent of those polled agree:  “Most people who want to get ahead can make it if they’re willing to work hard.”  Despite that sentiment a growing number of us middle classers feel like we’re one bad year from joining the ranks of the poor. The survey confirms economic anxieties have undercut optimism that customarily accompanies a recovery, USA Today reports.

Sixty percent of those surveyed also say the economic system in this country “unfairly favors the wealthy.”  Only 36 percent believe its generally fair.  The poll of 1,504 adults conducted January 15-19 has a margin of error of +/-3 percent.

Those surveyed overwhelmingly (82 percent) support continued government action against poverty.  Respondents were almost equally divided between believing (49 percent) “government aid to the poor does more good than harm because people can’t get out of poverty until their basic needs are met” and  (44 percent) “government aid to the poor does more harm than good by making people too dependent on government assistance.”

By a margin of 50-35 percent, those polled believe poverty is generally a result of circumstances beyond a person’s control, not a lack of effort.  By a similar margin, 51-38 percent, respondents think people get rich because they work harder than most other people, not because they have more advantages in life.  But a common lament, reports USA Today, is that getting ahead is harder and harder.

Question:  Will continued economic recovery lift all boats?  

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