A flip through almost any current magazine issue, from Glamour to National Geographic, reveals at least one article that is somehow related to the recent economic slump. In this week's issue of Time, Rana Foroohar's article "The Truth About the Poverty Crisis" presents startling statistics about a large portion of Americans' financial situations. This article resonated with me because it referenced the current problems and mindsets that have caused me to flee from the contemporary American notions wealth and money.
Foroohar's assertion that the myth of the American dream has been replaced with a reality of "downward mobility," the idea that it is now difficult for Americans to to work their way up to an economic class higher than the one in which they were born, is just one of the many harsh realities of the era in which we live. Several of the statistics she references are shocking, even for a disheartened skeptic such as myself: "more than fifteen percent of Americans live below the poverty line," "the average real weekly earnings of a typical blue collar worker are lower today than in 1964," there are more poor people in America now than any time in the last fifty-two years. I find it difficult to believe that with such statistics abounding in the media, I can count on one hand the number of individuals or families I know personally who have made decisions similar to mine and Cody's to not participate in the conventions of today's popular economic lifestyle. Why do so few others harbor the same feelings of disgust? Foroohar quotes Isabell Sawhill: "We have a belief system and an idea about ourselves that don't always align well with the facts." I feel Sawhill's statement is perhaps the most poignant of our time.
Yet another ominous warning in this article is Foroohar's statement that the Baby Boomers and the Boomerang Generation (mine) will ultimately battle for "dwindling government benefits" which cannot support Social Security for the elderly and training and education for the younger. I feel that we are becoming increasingly reliant on a system that is increasingly less equipped to support even itself.
I share this article not as doomsday evidence, but as yet another signal that things must change. Even though we are bombarded with claims such as Foroohar's, individuals generally do little to to revise their own concepts of money, wealth, poverty, and to some extent, benefits and retirement. All of our current ideas about these essential components of our existence equate to a "fiction," as Foroohar calls it, that is "becoming even more difficult to sustain."