Friday, September 05, 2008

The American Dream
Is Not a Government Handout

The phrase “American Dream” comes to us from historian and writer James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book, The Epic of America, where he said: “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone.” The phrase became a symbol of the opportunity America offered, and was reflected in great stories of personal triumph.

Adams complete definition is a broader statement, however, the rest of which explains that Americans are blessed “with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

“It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely,” he writes, “but a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

Adams tells us that the American Dream is, at its core, unbridled opportunity, and what we do with that opportunity, or what we fail to do with it, determines whether, and to what degree, we achieve the American Dream.

In the United States Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers told us that certain truths are self-evident, “that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” This sentiment is the foundation of the American Dream. It expresses the founders’ vision of a great nation where men and women are free “to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable.” Inherent in that vision is that Americans have the will and determination to overcome the circumstances standing between them and their dream.

This is where the American Dream comes under attack. Forces now, and over the last four decades, are and have been hard at work tearing down the traditional American sense of rugged individualism, the sense of perseverance in search of a distant goal, the sense of personal responsibility, the innate understanding that life is not usually easy and that we will be the better for our contesting against adverse circumstances, and what seem to be overwhelming odds.

One member of those forces is Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

When he tells us that America is the greatest nation on Earth and we must change it, the American Dream is one of the things he wants to change.

Senator Obama wants government to bestow the American Dream on every American who hasn’t yet achieved it, or at least make it difficult for them to fail to enjoy it.

But the American Dream is not a right, and it is not a government program. When you think about it, the American Dream is the antithesis of a government program.

Our government was set up to be of limited size and scope; it wasn’t designed to micromanage our lives or our economy. Government’s role is to support a system that allows every American a shot at the American Dream. That is very different from what Mr. Obama is suggesting. And, the fact is that the Obama plan will only make the situation worse, and will require more of what has put the American Dream out of the reach of so many Americans: Too much government interference in the lives of the people and too high taxes on the productive elements of our society.

Late last year in Iowa, Mr. Obama said the reason he’s running for president is to keep the American Dream alive. But his idea of keeping the dream alive includes government imposing mandates on employers, such as raising the minimum wage and mandating the number of sick days for all workers, and implementing expensive government programs, such as creating Promise Neighborhoods, implementing a series of tax credits for certain groups, and creating transportation programs for certain groups.

Putting these measures into effect will not be free, and the price will be paid through increased costs and higher taxes to businesses, which will increase consumer prices, and higher taxes for wealthier Americans, limiting how much money they have available to use as they see fit. That is another of the ideas of the founding fathers: citizens being able to keep the fruits of their labors.

Karl Marx wrote the now-famous phrase, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” That concept is the cornerstone of socialist thought, and over the last 40 years socialist dogma has crept into our government and is the root of much of what our government does, and what a large number of politicians want to do.

America grew and prospered for nearly 200 years without the heavy government interference we see today. The American Dream was a goal its citizens pursued and achieved without government help. Today, we are becoming more dependent upon government for our very survival.

Karl Marx would be proud.

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