Rich Tucker

Shepard puts his finger on what’s really putting the American dream at risk. “A lot of us spend our lives living beyond our means, working for items that aren’t necessarily within our reach,” he notes. “We rack up credit card debt and spend money on material items and vacations that we can’t quite afford.”

The CNN report bears that out.

Patricia Guerrero explained she’d recently lost her $70,000 per year job, and she’d apparently been spending most of that money as soon as it came in. Before going to the soup kitchen, she told reporter Gutierrez, “I just remember you take off the Tiffany bracelet and you take off -- you don’t take in your Coach purse because it is not worth anything anyways.”

Clearly it’s American priorities, not opportunities, that have changed.

Shepard eventually succeeds in his quest. Of course, as he acknowledges, some will say he only got ahead because he was a young healthy man who didn’t have to worry about, say, health insurance. But it’s worth noting that even wealthy people often go without coverage.

Just last year a study found that rock stars are more likely to die at a young age. No real surprise there. Researcher Mark Bellis told reporters that could be because aging American pop stars don’t buy health insurance.

But why can’t health insurance work like car insurance? It’s almost impossible to turn on the TV without seeing an ad for car insurance. Dozens of companies compete to offer the best prices and services.

The health insurance market could be just as competitive. Federal tax policy is the reason it isn’t. Because of a World War II era policy, most people get health coverage through their job. If we created a private market, more people would have access to better coverage.

“More than anything else over the course of my project, I grew to appreciate, even more than before, that we live in the greatest country in the world,” Shepard concludes. “In spite of all the whining and complaining that goes on in our country, I’d say we’re doing all right.”

Anyone who questions the American dream should read this book, and prepare to be re-energized.

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for