In the impression of many people, the “American Dream” has inspired generations of young Americans and attracted aspiring young people from all over the world.
It draws a beautiful picture of life for ordinary people: relying on their own diligence and wisdom, you can get higher incomes, better opportunities, achieve class transition, and enter the middle class and even wealth freedom.
Is it really like this?
At present, young Americans are suffering from the increasingly fierce “American nightmare”–
Due to the adverse epidemic prevention, the cumulative number of confirmed cases in the United States ranks first in the world, and the unemployment rate, especially among young people, is high.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, at its peak in April 2020, the unemployment rate of young people aged 16 to 24 in the United States reached 27%, and one in four people lost their jobs.
A few days ago, hundreds of pro-Trump demonstrators in the United States broke through the Capitol a few days ago. The police and the people confronted each other, killing five people and 52 arrested. Among these demonstrators, there are a large number of young people.
Due to racial discrimination, in the summer of 2020, a “black life matter” campaign to protest against the violent enforcement of white police in the United States broke out.
Countless young people rushed to the streets, demonstrating, smashing, burning, and overthrowing statues, sweeping more than 30 states and more than 200 cities.
Due to the stimulation of water release, the U.S. stock market has repeatedly hit record highs, and the wealth gap has widened sharply. In June 2020, the richest 1% of Americans sat on the country’s 30.5% wealth, and the poorest 50% of Americans had a wealth of only 1.9%, according to the Federal Reserve. The baby boomers (1946–1964) held most of the wealth of the United States, more than 10 times as many as millennials (who reached adulthood after 2000).
From unemployment, political antagonism, racial discrimination, to hollowing out of industry, widening the gap between rich and poor, and class solidification, are these extreme phenomena accidental? Obviously not, they have exploded more points, bloomed in full bloom, and are out of control.
Is the United States still a “lighthouse”? What happened to the young people in the United States?
“The economic foundation determines the superstructure”, Marx’s assertion a hundred years ago is still correct. Perspectives on the fundamentals of the American economy can help us understand the economic reasons for the rise of populism in the United States today.
In the past, the “American Dream” was attractive. The stable prosperity of American society is fundamentally that under the dividends of industrial transformation and development, it benefits the huge middle class and forms an “olivine” social structure. However, according to the data of American research institutions, the annual income of the middle class in the United States fell from 62% in 1970 to 43% in 2014. For the first time in 2015, the proportion of the middle class in the United States was lower than half of the total population! In addition to blacks and minorities, even some white people are on the verge of poverty, and the “olive” social structure is already fragile.
Take a closer look at the facts under the economic and social changes of the United States:
First, in terms of macro indicators, the GDP of the United States fell by 9.0% and 2.9% year-on-year in the second and third quarters of last year. Without stable economic growth, there will be no employment growth, and there will be no stable income expectations.
Second, in terms of industrial structure, the proportion of the service industry in the United States remained at a high level of 78% between 2008 and 2018, but the manufacturing industry continued to shrink, the industry was hollowing out, and capital bubbled. Industrial changes lead to changes in income distribution. The fruits of development are concentrated on the high-income class engaged in finance and the Internet. The interests of the middle class, most of which are engaged in traditional industries, are seriously damaged.
Third, in terms of social structure, the “Gini coefficient” reflecting the degree of equal income distribution in a country shows that the Gini coefficient in the United States rose from 0.386 to 0.486 from 1968 to 2018, and the gap between rich and poor continued to widen. The Bridgewater Fund report also revealed that the average household income of the top 40% of the United States is four times that of the last 60%, and another 40% of Americans are in a “moonlight” state.
What’s more frightening is that children from the top 1% of households are 76 times more enrolled in the top private universities in the United States (such as the Ivy League) than the bottom 20%.Without a good education, young people have no hope of class leapfrogging, which exacerbates class solidification.
No constant production, no perseverance.
Employment, education, pension, health care… The all-round sense of inequality and the sense of “cutting vegetables” have become the fuel of anti-globalization, anti-elite and other political attitudes of young Americans represented by Generation Z (born 1995-2009). They are often burdened with education loans, housing loans, consumer loans, and cannot enter. Living in a tight life.
In the reality of bleak economic prospects, huge wealth disparities, and rigid distribution mechanisms, populism emerges from the young people at the bottom who occupy Wall Street, storm Congress…
and social and political conflicts are increasing. This destructiveness has been accelerated in the face of the impact of the coronavirus epidemic and the wave of mobile Internet.
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln said in his famous Gettysburg Address, “This government of the people, ruled by the people and for the people will live forever”. For a long time, people have been the foundation and mainstream values claimed by the United States for the founding of the country.
However, things are changing.
In many U.S. elections, we can clearly see that rich families dominate politics, capital manipulate votes, become more and more farce, and people’s identity is gradually declining.
Political and social functioning has been kidnapped by interest groups.
For example, the Wall Street elites who gave birth to the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007 have received trillions of dollars of dollars in the U.S. Treasury to dividends and survive, thanks to their special connections with the government and the “big and unfalling” influence of institutions.
And this money comes from the vast number of taxpayers.
For example, according to the data of American research institutions, from 2011 to 2016, the 200 most politically active companies in the United States spent $5.8 billion to influence U.S. policymaking, with a total return of $4.4 trillion, or 758 times the return!
Nobel laureate Stiglitz said bluntly that the United States “belongs to 1%, controlled by 1%, for 1%”.
As the gap between rich and poor widens, the participation and influence of the middle and low-income sectors in the United States, especially young people, have seriously weakened in policy, from staring at “money politics” to eventually going to street violence. How can democracy and freedom come from in a deeply divided society? Where does it come from “people have, people rule, people enjoy”?
So what are the elites and mainstream media thinking about?
For example, in a 2013 issue of Forbes magazine, “We are about to enter the era of innovative economy, and manufacturing will become a commodity; and ideas, that is, intellectual property, will prevail over everything.”
For example, the Nasdaq super bull market was born under the “outsourcing model” and financial liberalization policies of multinational companies. Shareholders, executives and rich people made a lot of money.
The “Matthew effect” was obvious. They lobbied and evaded taxes while lobbying.
Those industrial workers who squeezed out of manufacturing are increasingly flowing to the service industry, such as catering, shopping guide, customer service, agency and other jobs.
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Labor, seven of the top ten fastest-growing occupations in the United States in the next decade are low-income occupations that do not require a college degree. Low-income occupations mean unstable jobs, high mobility, backward incomes and insecure benefits.
There are no benefits at the bottom, the middle class is getting smaller and fewer, and more and more white people are getting poor. What will they think?
A survey conducted by Harvard University on more than 2,000 young Americans aged 18-29 called “American Youth Attitudes to Politics and Public Service” found that more than half of young people have a negative view of the above issues, and about 67% of the respondents are worried about the future of the United States.
The governance of the United States of the United States has shown signs of decline, and the rift in the core values of American society is getting wider and larger.
Therefore, it has repeatedly provoked trade frictions with other countries, adopted a “retreat” attitude of non-cooperation, diverting domestic contradictions and attention, impacting the international order, and bringing great uncertainty to the world.
America’s worries are not outside, but also within the wall.
The farce of the recent U.S. election once again shows that it is difficult for candidates from both parties to break out of vested interests and face and solve the problems faced by the increasing polarization between rich and poor and the decline of the middle class in the United States.
According to the data, Generation Z currently accounts for 25.9% of the 330 million people in the United States, about two-thirds of the baby boomers.
Generation Z has experienced the widespread popularity of smartphones and the rapid development of social networks. They can slide and click at will on platforms such as Twitter and TikTok to obtain a large amount of information, comment on and curse political elites and authoritative figures. In the 2020 U.S. election, one in ten eligible voters belong to Generation Z.
Now these angry young people have freer ideas and stronger organizational mobilization tools. If the richer the richer, the poorer the poorer, the poorer the poorer, the society, the more difficult to see the reality, and the problem cannot find the lesson, the contradiction and conflict will intensify.
Water can carry a boat and overturn it.