Sunday, May 2, 2010

Felix Salmon's American Dream on NPR

For many, the original picket-fence vision of the American Dream has evolved since its humble beginnings: owning your own home, going from rags to riches, etc. One of the ways in which it has certainly changed over time is that it now includes things such as a college education. It has also become amplified in the rags to riches sense, as the ability to make a total Cinderella transformation and become the next Gates/Buffet, or even the means to spend frivolously and excessively. Yet for many, the American Dream still remains deeply rooted in the primary privilege of owning your own property. I was driving the other day, listening to NPR, and I must have tuned in at a particular opportune time. The many blog entries I had yet to write were looming over my head, and incidentally at that moment, financial journalist Felix Salmon came on the air to discuss whether the “American Dream is one big lie.”
He starts by stating a quote that last President George W. Bush said: “Owning a home is a part of that dream, it just is. Right here in America, if you own your own home, you're realizing the American dream.”
Obviously home ownership and foreclosures have been experiencing ups and downs with the economy. Recently, however, people have decided that with the recovering economy, it is not a good time to buy homes. Home ownership embodies the American Dream because one feels like he is in charge of his destiny, not under the watch of a landlord or anyone else.
Salmon goes on to say that the people are utterly mistaken. Even though it’s been engrained in our heads that homeownership is the American Dream, the mortgages and rent that we pay are actually ruining us, and stripping us of our independence. Mortgages and rent, to Salmon, are one and the same. Either you’re renting the house, or you’re renting the money to pay for the house. You’re always at the mercy of someone else, who could snatch away the roof from over your head at any given instant.
From this radio broadcast, I basically got this: the hope of the American Dream of owning your own home is certainly alive and thriving. Whether that is in the best interest of the people, and whether that is behind the times, is a matter of debate. It seems as if America has come a long way, socially and economically, since the first happy little homes in suburbia were springing up. After hearing what Salmon had to say, I have come to think that the American Dream has become harder and harder to obtain – or has changed altogether.

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