John Stossel

I'm sick of hearing that America is no longer a land of opportunity.

Even before the current recession, politicians and pundits were constantly wringing their hands about the "demise of the middle class."

"Middle class families are struggling," President Barack Obama kept saying on the campaign trail.

Lou Dobbs hammers away at this night after night: "What's left of our middle class may be on the verge of collapse."

And author Barbara Ehrenreich won fame by claiming that it's almost impossible for an entry-level worker to make it in America. She wrote "Nickel and Dimed," a book that describes her failure to "make it" working in entry-level jobs. Her book is now required reading in thousands of high schools and colleges. I spoke to her for my ABC special "Bailouts, Big Spending and Bull".

"I worked as a waitress and an aide in a nursing home and a cleaning lady and a Wal-Mart associate. And that didn't do it."

If you do a good job, can't you move up?

"That's not easy. Wal-Mart capped the maximum you can ever make."

But if you do a good job, you could be promoted to assistant manager, store manager.

"Well, I suppose."

I pointed out that the new CEO of Wal-Mart, Mike Duke, started out as an hourly worker.

"There are always exceptions," she said. "My father worked his way up and became a corporate executive. But that was a one-in-a-million situation."

Oh, yeah?

"I read 'Nickel and Dimed,'" Adam Shepard told me. He was assigned her book in college and decided to test Ehrenreich's claim.

He picked a city out of a hat, Charleston, S.C., and showed up there with $25. He didn't tell anyone about his college degree. He soon got an $8/hour job working for a moving company. He kept at it. Within a year, he told me, "I have got $5,500 and a car. I have got a furnished apartment."

Adam writes about his search for the American Dream in "Scratch Beginnings". It's a very different book from "Nickel and Dimed."

"If you want to fail, go for it, " he said.

Barbara Ehrenreich wanted to fail?

"Absolutely, I think she wanted to fail -- and write the book about it.

I asked him for evidence.

"She is spending $40 on pants. She is staying in hotels. I made sacrifices so that I could succeed. She didn't make any sacrifices."

I asked Ehrenreich: Why can he do it, when you couldn't?

"I know, it's embarrassing."

Were you trying to fail?

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate