News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

October 14, 2012

READERS’ FORUM: Oct. 14, 2012

(Continued)

American dream very much alive

One of the very fundamental strengths of the United States has always been that it didn’t matter who your parents were. Your success or failure in life depended on what each individual accomplished. It is the American dream. A recent national news magazine had an article saying America had lost that upward mobility.  

As proof, they cited several studies. One claimed that only 35 percent of the Forbes 400 was born lower or middle class. Another statistic used was that two-thirds of children born into the lowest earning 20 percent of society will remain in the lowest earning 40 percent over their lifetime.

Now call me a glass-half-full sort of optimist, but those numbers are really very good. Over one third of the richest “old money” has been replaced by someone who has risen by their own hard work and initiative.  

The second statistic used is much more positive than the writers imply as well. Of people who start their life in the bottom quintile of American society, one-third make it into the middle quintile or higher. Also, of the remaining two-thirds, an unspecified number, but some portion nonetheless, moves up into the second quintile.  

At the same time, having money is no guarantee. As the figures show, for those who move up, someone has to move down the relative pecking order. There could be a whole host of reasons for this. It may be someone who is doing his best and is increasing income, just not as quickly as others. It may also be the prototypical wastrel who chooses an unproductive life over a productive one.

Every parent wants their children to have a better life than they did. That is only natural. The problem today is the government is trying to guarantee that outcome instead of making each individual earn it.

— Dwayne Owens

Terre Haute

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