We all have grown up hearing about the “American Dream” – you know, the one where any child could become rich if they just made the effort. When I was growing up in a middle class neighborhood in Oak Park, I had no appreciation that I would be among the last generation of Americans where that dream had a chance to become real. A recent study by Harvard economist Raj Chetty has proven that the American Dream is no longer a reality for the vast majority of American children. Combined with other studies showing the massive economic disparity in the U.S. (we now rank among the worst third world dictatorships in terms of unequal wealth distribution), the massive study confirms that since the “Reagan Revolution” the middle class has nearly disappeared, the poverty rate has exploded and, most importantly, the actual ability of the poor to improve their economic status has been greatly reduced. In other words, not only are there far more American in poverty, their chances of getting out of poverty no matter how hard they work is greatly diminished. The American reality for today’s children is “no matter how hard you work, the chips are stacked against you in this Country”. That’s what tax breaks for the rich has done to the U.S.
The Chetty study (The Economic Impacts of Tax Expenditures Evidence from Spatial Variation Across the U.S.) was based on the most extensive data base ever examined and has already won the most prestigious award among U.S. economists and mentioned as a Nobel Prize potential. It showed that tax policies since the Reagan Era are perfectly predictive of the growth of poverty and the lack of upward economic mobility among Americans. Although the authors offer no explanation of the results, the results are indisputable: areas of the country where upward mobility is nearly impossible are areas of the country with the most corporate friendly tax rates, and States with least amounts of tax expenditures on social programs and the most tax loopholes for the richest. Most of the States are in the South, with a few Western and Midwestern post-industrial States such as Ohio, Indiana and (now) Michigan. All of the States with the least chance of upward mobility are “Right to Work” States.
One can only wonder how long the economic injustice in this country will be tolerated by Americans.