The Confederate flag and all it entails has little relevance for most Central Coast residents. We are about as far removed from that squabble as one can get in this great nation of ours.
Still, the Civil War was, and will continue to be a big part of our history — a terrible part, to be sure, in terms of human misery. But for many of us, it remains a mystery why so many Americans cling to the Confederacy and a war they didn’t experience.
We have a theory, and with what’s been happening since before the presidential election, it’s making more and more sense: People cling to the past because that’s when the American dream was alive and well. Today? Maybe not so much.
The Equality of Opportunity Project, an economic research organization, has studied average incomes of 26-year-olds in the bottom 25-percent of America’s poorest counties, and compared with their parents, they’re pretty much all on the losing end of the economic spectrum.
The study covered 2,973 U.S. counties. What was revealed concludes that a typical 26-year-old from these poorer counties who earns more than the national average for his age and income group is said to have managed very little upward income mobility, and many have lost ground.
Among the bedrock promises of the American dream is that children born in the United States will do better financially than their parents. It has to do with mobility, having the financial resources to move up the economic ladder.
According to the Equality of Opportunity Project’s research on such mobility, the percentage of children who grow up to earn more than their parents is down from approximately 90 percent of those born in 1940, to 50 percent of children born in the 1980s.
The worst county in America is Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, where children have the lowest odds of earning a living wage in adulthood. The annual income a child in a low-income family there is likely to make as an adult decreases by nearly 2 percent a year. To escape that, that young person must leave that area.
Being forced out of your own home town by economic circumstances is yet another sign that what we have come to understand as the “American Dream” has faded.
According to Investopedia, today's American Dream is to graduate from college with minimal debt, secure a job with benefits in your field, be able to afford decent health-care, saving for retirement and paying down loans, and still live a comfortable life.
That all may seem less of a problem for local residents, but it clearly is a problem for millions of Americans who realize they are being left behind, denied the American Dream and its many benefits. If your parents were better off financially than you, your dream may have turned into a nightmare.
That situation seems to have fueled voters in the presidential election, and the series of events since last January are further eroding those voters’ hopes.
The four worst counties in the survey have a majority of citizens identifying themselves as Native Americans, which is one of the nation’s most economically disadvantaged populations. It is, therefore, understandable that given an opportunity to excel economically, tribes seize on the chance to capitalize on opportunities that open up a doorway to the American Dream. Wouldn’t you do the same?
This nation and its people are changing, to be sure, but one thing remains constant — we are all Americans, and most of us want to share the dream.