The American Dream is Only a Dream

I keep hearing rich people ask why they are hated for their wealth. Like this:

Ah, yes. This does make me rage.

I am told quite frequently that I should be working a few full time jobs to pay for school. I should not have any student loans, I should be paying for all of my tuition out of pocket, and I should live on my own. If I could, I would love to do these things.

The problem is, I have. I’ve tried so hard — at several points in the last four years, I was working 40-70 hours a week and trying to pay my way through school. I paid for my freshman year out of pocket because I was in a community college and tuition only cost about $800 per term at the beginning. By last year, it had increased to $1200 per term. I decided to transfer to a “real school,” PSU, which was about $3000 per term, but has definitely been worth the extra money.

I should also mention that while I was working those 40-70 hour work weeks, I was only making $11.57 per hour at the most. This means I was bringing home $1200-1400 per month. Tiny apartments in Portland are about $450-700 per month. Here in Santa Clarita, they start at about $1000, and that’s for a dumpy, paper-thin walls sort of place.

Let’s do some basic math.

If I were paying for a place on my own — Hell, let’s split it and say I live with someone else — I would be paying about $300 for rent and utilities.


Then I’m in school, paying for it on my own. At PSU, you’re allowed to pay for your tuition throughout the term, so you have about 3 months to pay for it. Let’s say it’s about $1000 per month.


I also need food. I have bills, I have car insurance, everything usually adds up to about $250 per month. This means I would need to work about 80 hours a week instead of 60 or 70, just to scrape by.

Okay. Two full time jobs and being a full time student would only take about… let’s see. 80 hours of work, 30 hours in school, 10 hours doing homework… Maybe like 120 hours a week. There are 168 hours in one week. That gives me 40 hours to sleep and eat in 7 days. If I eat really quickly all the time, that’s about 5 hours of sleep per night.

And people wonder why students fall asleep in class.

The idea of barely making enough to “live” wouldn’t bother me so much if everyone were on the same level, or at least close. At this point, there are way more people closer to my level than the rich people I mentioned earlier on. People who have built their entire careers, who have finished school then end up getting laid off because some company isn’t getting enough profit. People with families, people who were considered stable or even well off a year ago, are now homeless.

I know of one family that was quite rich. They lived in an upperclass neighborhood, in a huge white house with a perfectly landscaped yard. It seemed like they had a perfect life — the ideal nuclear family with a rich white couple, two college student daughters who had spent their entire lives in private school, and two dogs.

This family is now homeless. The father lost his job a couple years ago and hasn’t been able to find anything since then — and no, he isn’t just leeching off the system, for those of you who think every unemployed person is just lazy — he was looking for jobs. He was very proud, and felt like he should be supporting his family instead of having his wife and one of his daughters support him. They had paid for their mortgage on time for the 10 years they had lived in that house, and when Bank of America told them that they could refinance and pay less, they of course took the offer.

Then Bank of America said, “Oh, don’t pay your mortgage until we get everything sorted out.”

They then said, “Oh, you haven’t paid your mortgage in 3 months. This house is no longer your home.”

Thank you, wonderful people of Bank of America. We appreciate your clear communication and compassion for those you “serve,” you fucking selfish, immoral assholes.

So this family lost their house and their pride.

There’s a lawsuit open against Bank of America for this very thing, by the way, but it’s $5000 or so to buy in, and not many people who are homeless have a few thousand to spare. Hell, they probably have nothing to spare.

Bank of America also apparently thinks they aren’t making enough money by taking everyone’s houses, so they are also charging people to use their debit cards. How sweet.

The CEO of Bank of America, Brian Moynihan, makes a good amount of money. He is certainly not losing his house, or struggling to make ends meet, or having to decide between building a future for himself or having a roof over his head. He does, however, seem to think that the best way to make money is to take everyone else’s, even when they already have none.

Mmm, debt with interest. More money, more greed.

This is why people have a problem with rich people, you see. The absolute greed is disgusting. It’s sinful, even. It’s so, so wrong. It also has nothing to do with jealousy. I’m happy with my life. I’m sick of seeing people hurt, I’m sick of seeing people pretend that they have no responsibility. We are all human. We’re all deserving of a chance, and when there are no jobs available because someone has decided he needs another bonus, you are effectively removing that chance.

We can’t just produce more money to give away, that obviously decreases the value of the money. Anyone who has collected Pokémon cards knows that when there are fifty Pidgeys in a deck, it doesn’t mean as much.

Minimum wage needs to be increased. A person should be able to support themselves on one full time job (if they can find one) and at this point, it would be quite difficult to. Someone making minimum wage, working full time, will only make like $17,000 per year, then when you add taxes in it’s about $13,000. When I was working 60 hour weeks, I was making about $22,000 per year. If one person can make billions of dollars in a year, I’m sure they could deal with making one billion less and letting that money go into the pockets of the people who actually need and deserve it.

If you factor in that many people are single parents, that makes it even worse. Someone making minimum wage will have to pay for their home, their food, plus everything for their child. If they’re going to work and their child isn’t old enough to be in school yet, they also have to pay for childcare, which could be around $1000 a month or more.

“Oh, they’re just being lazy and jealous, they should work harder.”

Well, yes, considering that if they are working only one full time job, they probably can’t afford childcare, much less a home for that child. This person will now have to work two jobs. That brings them up to a whopping $500 a week after taxes, plus very little time with their child and virtually no chance of going to school at the same time.

I don’t see how people don’t get that the huge discrepancy between the working class and the incredibly wealthy is an issue. Like, it’s great that some people can support themselves. The problem is that they’re just hoarding all the money, and there are no laws saying that we should be able to make enough to pay for our tuition, children, homes, transportation, and food. Everyone is essentially screwed. I already know that I’m going to be spending the next decade or so paying off the debts I have to accrue to pay for my education, and I just took my first student loans last year.

Protests like the one going on in New York right now give me some hope, though. There are people who are actually acknowledging that things need to change. One Vanity Fair article I read says:

Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.

The problem, rich people, is that while you have everything, everyone else has nothing. If you think that you’re disliked because you made money, you’re missing the point. If you think that going to school, having a home and being able to live comfortably is a right that only you have earned, you are a terrible person. You affect everyone else by effectively taking their rights, their motivation to try to succeed, and their belief that maybe the “Land of the free” will allow them to have one American dream.

Those things make you a terrible patriot.

5 thoughts on “The American Dream is Only a Dream

  1. I agree with a lot. I disagree with some as well, but the minimum wage bit grabs me a bit. I’ve always been independent, that’s politically and financially. In PA at the time, minimum wage was $5.15., I started $6 and worked my way up to $8.50 per hour. I work for a small local business chain. Minimum wage is not supposed to sustain a family, it’s meant for low level income people, temporary works, and people entering the market. I moved up from that stage. THEN, Pennsylvania and shortly there after, the federal government raised the minimum wage. I’ve never been so screwed over in my life. I went from the bottom to something sustainable, only to have the government undermine it. The new minimum wage HUGELY increased inflation and all costs in the area. For my job alone, food cost raised a lot and the labor cost went through the roof. So we raised prices and adjusted to the new economy. HOWEVER, I got nothing. In fact, I know know one that made better than minimum wage that got a pay raise to adjust to the increase. I went from someone who made a lot better than minimum wage to someone who was borderline minimum wage. The rest of the economy adjusted to the inflation, but my position (and many like me) couldn’t. I went from a manager to a delivery driver, I live off of tips now, because I technically make more as a driver compared to when I was a manager.

    • See, for me… Minimum wage was usually a raise. When I started working in September, minimum wage was about $7.25. I got a raise to $7.50 when minimum wage increased, then quit that job after 9 months (I was 17, didn’t really need it at that point) and started working at Gamestop shortly after… for the same amount. I pretty much got raises because of the minimum wage increases, then at Gamestop we could get annual raises… of 5% max. No matter what I did, even when I was managing the highest performing store in the district, I couldn’t get a raise higher than that.
      I’ll bet I could have made more on tips, too, though -.-

      • I started as a lowly cook, and ended up as the manager. With the minimum wage increase it became more profitable to be a simple delivery driver. Only because I only have to claim a portion of my tips.

  2. I’ll start by pointing out that that Vanity Fair article doesn’t really know what it’s talking about. The marginal productivity theory was in no way developed the inequities between the rich and the poor. It was developed to explain cost/benefit factor of employing labor. It was (and basically still is) used to determine the optimal number of employees to benefit employers. It had nothing to do with contributing towards society. I majored in economics and spent a great deal of time on theories like this. I never saw mention of this theory used to justify inequality between the rich and the poor, it’s basically a formula for the basic reasoning you would use to make a schedule as a manger of a store. I couldn’t imagine people trying to apply it to the benefit of society.

    But I know exactly where you’re coming from, I think about this kind of stuff all the time. It’s highly depressing, and it’s all one vicious cycle. Employers try to keep wages as low as possible to maximize profit…and the thing is the kinda have to, we have anti-trust laws to thank for that. It’s easiest to pay the lowest possible wage with a high unemployment rate. There is almost always people out there willing to do any given job at a lower rate of pay, and with a higher rate of unemployment, it’s easier to find those people. The recession really screwed us in that area as well. Notice how the stock market basically fully recovered, yet the unemployment rate never dropped below like, 9%? Well, when the economy went to shit, companies had to start cutting jobs, meaning they had to make due with fewer people, and after a while they learned to do that. Most companies were able to get back to pre-crash productivity with only a fraction of their staff, which meant when they recovered, they no longer had a need for those people. Jobs didn’t open back up, so that gives employers millions of more people to hire from if employees start asking for too much….because once again, there are people out there willing to work for what they’re offering, or even less.

    The thing that really worries me though is something that nobody ever talks about, or even mentions, it’s like a ticking time bomb. As of about 5 years ago, the US had about 300 million people, the world population was around 6.5 billion. At that time, Americans consumed about 40% of the resources produced each year. So basically as of 5 years ago, we represented 5% of the global population, yet used 40% of resources. Factor that out, at the rate they Americans used resources in 2006 it was only possible for the WORLD to have the same standard of living for about 800 million people. It is not possible for more than 1/8 of the global population to live like Americans.

    Translated: we’re fucked. The rest of the world is catching up with us, China’s economy has been growing by leaps and bounds, and they have a population that is about 7 times the size of ours. Their demands are getting higher and higher, and they’re not the only ones. Most of the world’s population is in developing countries, compared to us, their standard of living is mid-evil. It’s only a matter of time before these people come looking for their fair share, and currently their “fair share” is held by us.

    THAT scares the shit out of me. Like I said, nobody talks about it. Most never take the time to even think about it, and most who do don’t talk about it because there’s really nothing we can do about. This is where that marginal rate of return theory comes in. Even if we do increase production of resources, it will be at diminishing rate. We can create more resources but not anywhere near the rate at which demand will be increasing. That’s why the cost of living has gone up in the US, while income has stayed relatively the same. Costs for resources are rising faster than income can rise without inflation getting out of control. When I was growing up, an apartment in my area cost $300-500/month. Today the same apartment costs $800-1000. That’s more than 100% increase in most cases. Milk was $1.99/gallon, now…about $3.19. A more than 50% increase. And I’m only 28. we’re talking that kind of increase in a 15-20 year period,, not like the 70s or something.

    I could talk Econ all night long, and I know I’ve barely addressed anything you wrote, but you said it how it is. It’s shitty, and there’s no simple solution, there would have to be dozens…probably hundreds of very complex solutions, and if any one of them doesn’t work out as planned it could cause a domino effect of disaster. That’s just how economics and economies work, it’s extremely hard to predict the outcomes of most actions, and introducing more variables dilutes the measurability of the effectiveness of all variables.

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