Terry Paulson

Liberal politicians and the occupiers who are encamped in our cities are selling a discouraging story that the American Dream is dead and out of the reach for the average citizen without government actively engaging in wealth redistribution and entitlement programs.

They are mistaken. The American Dream is still alive for those willing to apply themselves in achieving their own dreams. Yes, the gap between those in the top 1% and those in poverty has grown, but a closer look at the income mobility research indicates that the people who make up the “rich” and the “poor” change. People still move up, and people move down the income slide.

What have been described as the “Bootstrap Studies” during the 80s and 90s followed the same “poor” people over a period of time to get a true picture of income mobility in America. The University of Michigan and U.S. Treasury followed “poor” individuals for 17 and 9 years respectively. To generalize from the longest study of over 3,725 individuals, after 17 years, only 1 out of 20 “poor” Americans remained poor, 13 had become “middle class,” and 6 had become “rich,” defined by reaching the top 20% of income producers. In the 9-year study of over 14,000 families, 86 percent of those in the bottom quintile (20%) moved to a higher one, with two-thirds reaching the `middle class’ or above.

In a more recent 2007 U.S. Treasury study, “Income Mobility in the US from 1996 to 2005,” we find more evidence that there is no permanent membership in the upper-class or the under-class. Those with very high incomes in 1996–the top 1 percent–had their incomes cut in half by 2005. Many “rich” lost substantial income. Those trying to aspire to become rich–those in the top 20%–on average, increased their income ten percent. Those originally in the bottom 20 percent saw a 91 percent increase in income. In fact, roughly half of them increased their income right out of poverty! Unfortunately, since others lose jobs or fail in their business efforts, people move down into poverty to take their place. The large gap is still there but the people who populate the groups keep changing.

The news seems preoccupied with the victims. They do the complaining and get the coverage. It’s time we focus on achievers who are still innovating, working hard and proving that the American Dream can work…one dream at a time.

For every victim the liberals talk about to justify bigger government and more entitlement programs, conservatives should honor a survivor—an individual who found a way to overcome obstacles to achieve their American Dream. Let his or her story inspire and teach others to do the same.

Mitt Romney got it right, “President Obama doesn’t understand. It’s not government that makes America strong. It’s the free people of America that provide our future and our strength.”

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in an interview with Larry Kudlow asserts, “It is shameful the president of the United States would engage in class warfare and pit Americans against each other in way which can only be destructive of the fabric of American society.” Gingrich’s economic plan takes a page from Ronald Reagan—“lower taxes, less regulation, more American energy and work with the people who create jobs and don’t engage in class warfare against them.”

We should reclaim Ronald Reagan’s Inaugural Address: “We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look. They’re the individuals and families whose taxes support the government and those whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art and education. Their patriotism is deep. Their values sustain our national life.”

What should politicians do “to fix” the economy? Stop punishing the productive and enslaving the dependent in programs that keep them trapped in poverty. Free Americans to do what they’ve always done when given freedom and rewards for achievement–succeed! Cut spending, cut taxes, cut regulations and unleash the America Dream to take on the world and win. Politicians are not the answer–”We the People” are the answer. Vote for a candidate who understands that and will fight to free and encourage us to produce the vibrant economy America desperately needs.


Terry Paulson

Terry Paulson, PhD is a psychologist, award-winning professional speaker, author of The Optimism Advantage: 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes and Actions into Results, and long-time columnist for the Ventura County Star.

 
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