26 July 2005

Happiness is a warm bed ...

I listened to the Wendy Wild show last night on the way home through a downpour. Her guest was The Factman - a professor at a local university.

They covered several topics mostly dealing with economics - he's not professor of economics, of course, but he's the Factman so it's okay. One of the arguments they made was that the American Dream is essentially over. While it may have been true in the golden days of yore, now the disparity between the super rich elite and the common person is so great that if you're not already rich you may as well resign yourself to a life of serfdom.

Sorry, not buying any of it, thanks.

Obviously, not everyone can be rich. In order for the word rich to have meaning it's opposite must exist. There will always be some people who are more asset-endowed than other people and every attempt to make things otherwise has failed miserably.

They cited a report that Europe has recently passed the US in terms of economic mobility (sorry no link). This was their evidence that poor people can't become rich anymore. I can't address the report other than to quote Twain - "lies, damn lies, and statistics". If you have an agenda it's easy to find numbers to support it. I don't know if that's the case here, but I'm just sayin'...

The US as portrayed in 1950's sitcoms may be only a pleasant memory - to whatever extent it ever existed - but look around. People in the US are doing okay, today. Not just the super rich. And most of them start out at less than zero.

My wife and I are both college grads and we came out of school with a bunch of student loans. At the age of 22 I was an unmarried college grad working as a waiter with a child on the way. When my girlfriend (eventually my wife) and I moved in together we took my bed from my parents house and I think we had a card table and chairs. That was it for furniture. For our first Christmas I bought us a microwave and a television.

Money was tight for a lot of years. There was nothing easy about it. I went back to school (twice!) and worked full time. Our story together started out some 17 years ago and we've had our share of ups and downs, but today we live in a really nice house.

We're not wealthy (yet), but we're successful by most any measure, and frankly, we're happier than anyone else we know. But we're no happier now than we were when we started out with less than nothing. We just kept working and believed that things would eventually be better. And they were.

That's the American dream. You can get pretty much anything you want if you're willing to work and wait for it. It's not easy and it shouldn't be. But the dream is definitely still alive and flourishing. So the rich have gotten richer. So what. The poor have gotten richer, too.

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