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The end of American Dream

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/3/2010 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,438 times Debate No: 13259
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To begin with, how can we define American Dream? ``The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the second sentence of the United States Declaration of Independence which states that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.`` (1) and Home ownership is sometimes used as a proxy for achieving the promised prosperity, ownership has been a status symbol separating the middle classes from the poor.(2) For many people in America including immigrant people owning a private house is one of their American dreams. But these days it is very difficult for most of them. Stable economic growth, stable employment and stable wages offered by the companies are indispensableb for many people to have their private houses. Moreover, government and financial institutions play an important role to stimulating interest for those who want to possess private houses in the future. From the end of World War Second to the middle of 1980s the american economy enjoyed a steady and remarkable growth compared with other developed countries. Stable wages and stable employment inspired many workers to own their private houses. To meet their demand the housing industry offered a reasonable house with reasonable price for them. At the same time not only the U.S. government but banks offered measures for those who were interested in buying their houses. In particular, the government introduced a policy of encouraging for buying houses. This measure contributed to realizing American Dreams for many american people. Barbara Kiviat says that ``Washington lavishes homeowners with special treatment. When they file their income taxes, they can deduct mortgage interest and property taxes. When they sell, they don`t have to pay tax on the first few hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit.``(3) During that time many manufacturing companies concentrared their manufacturing operation on the the U.S. not on foreign countries. Therefore stable employment was realized. However, the situation which was favourable for many american people has drastically changed recently. These days many companies are transferring their manufacturing operations to low-waged countries such as China and India to eliminate the cost as much as possible. This has contributed to increasing the unemployment and fueling the anxiety for the future among the general public. Moreover, the number of part-time or temporary workers have increased drastically. Their wages are low and job opportunities are very unstable. Therefore they have become reluctant to use their disposable income for buying durable goods and houses. In addition to this these days many banks introduced a strict policy of lending money for only those who are capable of paying back after the financial crisis which took place three years ago. These situation help delude many american people into thinking that they can buy their houses in their life time. Economic and social situation are not reasonable to think about houseownership. Globalization of the economy and profit-oriented way of thinking among many bussiness managers destroyed the dreams of houseownership of many american people. The important thing is that self- interest oriented capitalists and the government officials who are accountable for triggering tax increase because of the mounting deficits of the federal government must be blamed for \depriving of realizing American Dreams from among many american citizens. From above mentioned arguments it is very difficult for american people to realize American Dreams today. Someone who are interested in this topic are invited to discuss with me further.
References: (1)
(3) Barbara Kiviat, The case against homeownership, TIME September 27, 2010  


I negate the resolution by showing that the American Dream is still alive

My opponent asks how we define the American Dream. The most operative word is "dream." According to Princeton's Wordnet, dream means "ambition, aspiration, a cherished desire." [1] The American Dream, or the cherished ambition to improve one's lot in life, often by either coming to America or embracing the American entrepreneurial spirit, is perfectly embodied in the Statue of Liberty's famous inscription: "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." My opponent focuses his case on showing how the short-term economic forecasts for our economy are weak. This is far removed from proving that there is an end to the American Dream. People in America still aspire to greater and greater heights of achievement, and foreigners still look upon America as a land of opportunity. If bad economic recessions spell an end to the American Dream, then it should have ended with the Great Depression, which is far worse than the current recession.

My opponent cites the Declaration of Independence's guarantee of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as examples of the American Dream. All three are still alive today. We are still guaranteed the right not to be unduly killed in our sleep by our government, unlike citizens of Iran, for example. We still have the right to liberty, to fully express our freedoms, unlike the citizens of North Korea who live constrained, state-regulated lives. We are still allowed the pursuit of happiness – we may do as we like and attempt to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, without anyone coming along to tear us down, unlike the Chinese peasants who, coming to cities to seek economic opportunities, are forcibly removed by the military. My opponent says that homeownership is a good proxy for the pursuit of happiness; however, the founders did not think so. The original John Locke line was the right to "life, liberty, and property." If you read the Federalist Papers, our nation's founders felt that the term "property" privileged the landed elite over the common man and changed the line to "the pursuit of happiness." Owning property is hardly a necessary or sufficient condition for having achieved the American dream. Our founders didn't think so either.

In fact, the Time Magazine article he cites is actually about how homeownership is not a desirable goal that Americans should be seeking – notice the title: "the case against homeownership." Barbara Kiviat in that article actually critiques my opponent's raising of homeownership up on a pedestal: "For the better part of a century, politics, industry and culture aligned to create a fetish of the idea of buying a house… by idealizing the act of buying a home, we have ignored the downsides." [2] Charles Morris, in The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown, underscores those downsides. We began to subsidize housing so much that it became too cheap, and people began using homeownership as an investment tool, rather than as a way to attain a quality place of residence. "By 2005, 40 percent of all home purchases were either for investment or as second homes." [3] In addition, we got ourselves into this mess by borrowing against the value of our homes to live beyond our means. Morris furthers that ""[Refinances] jumped from $14 billion in 1995 to nearly a quarter-trillion in 2005, the great majority of them resulting in higher loan amounts. Lower interest rates let you borrow more for the same monthly payment, pay off your old loan, and buy a new car with the difference. By the 2000s, consumers had learned how to ride down the interest-rate curve with abandon, many of them going back to the well again and again." The cult of homeownership actually resulted in the very financial collapse that my opponent bemoans due to over-borrowing and risky lending to finance homeownership (subprime mortgages).

The Time article enumerates other reasons why homeownership is bad, such as that owning a home anchors you to a certain place, so you cannot move to the places where the jobs actually exist.'s segment called Poverty in America points out that the current interstate move rate of 1.6 percent is exceptionally low for a recession. [4] The site notes that the U.S. has normally been able to bounce back quickly from recessions because we used to have a flexible labor force that would move around the country to find work – but not anymore. So homeownership is actually contributing to the recession that my opponent claims is hurting the American Dream. If homeownership hurts the American Dream, this turns half of my opponent's case. We should instead aspire (dream) to be a nation of mobile, easily adaptable renters.

It's not in the online article, but in the print version of Time there is a chart showing that there is no correlation between homeownership and the economic well-being of a country, by showing that the countries with the highest rental rates often have higher per-capita GDP's than the United States.

I'll reserve my refutations to my opponent's outsourcing argument for later, since I am out of characters.

It bears reminding at this point that the recession will soon end and the American Dream will continue to burn bright. On the time scale of our country, this recession will be seen as a tiny blip in the economic data.

Lastly, the American Dream will continue to inspire well into the future. Fareed Zakaria explains in Post-American World that the United States has the very best educational institutions in the entire world and continues to attract the best and the brightest to go to college and graduate school here. The incredible schools get them to come here, but the American Dream convinces them to stay. Zakaria notes that "Half of all Silicon Valley start-ups have one founder who is an immigrant or first-generation American."
By attracting the best and the brightest to America, we will continue to maintain our edge over other nations. Zakaria concludes that "America's potential new burst of productivity, its edge in nanotechnology, biotechnology, its ability to invent the future – all rest on its immigration policy." Our ability to inspire millions around the world to desire a life in America, our "soft power," is what makes us special. People in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, China, and Bangladesh all stare at their news reports about America and fantasize about a life in America and the wonderful promises made by the American Dream. The American Dream is an ideal – a bright light of hope that can never be extinguished. Even the darkest of times cannot dull its great gleam. The worst Depression in history did not end it. The worst terrorist attack in history could not extinguish it. The American Dream is here to stay.

[1] Wordnet 3.0
[2] Time, Case Against Homeownership
[3] The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown
Debate Round No. 1


Con, thank you for accepting this debate. My stance is that realizing American Dreams is a difficult task for many american people. Let me argue my stance from two angles. First is the social structure of the U.S. Second is unreasonable policy toward the welfare of the general public by the federal government. The U.S. constitution says that All Men are created equal. Is it true of all people in America? Unfortunately, some immigrant people find it very difficult to realize American Dream. The government has acceted many immigrants from abroad since the beginning of 20th century. They came the U.S. to realize American Dream. But in reality they have been discriminated in jobs, education and other areas for a long time. Their adaptation to american society is very difficult for them. Acceptance of people with different religion, beliefs, values and way of thinking are important elements in the democratic society like the U.S. However, difficult barriers exist for immigrant people to overcome in american society. George C. Lodge describes this situation as follows: At the time of summer of 1982,``There was an indeterminate number of people, also estimated at about 10 million, who comprised the American underclass. These people were cut off in a variety of ways from the legitimate economy and its officialdom. ..... This group was disproportionately black or Hispanic, and young. Its members lived in disintegrated communities, cut off from the world of work, lacking political power, alienated, traumatized, angray, and hopeless.``(1) When we turn our eyes into present situation, we realize that people from Islamist countries are finding difficult to express their opinions or demands freely toward local and the federal government. In particular, since the 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S. they have been feeling a sense of alienation from american society. Their sense of belonging in american society and sense of solidarity with american society have been lost or deteriorated. They have been excluded from american society. Once upon a time people who believe in Islam in America did not feel mental barrier toward american people. But they have become reluctant to mingle with them these days. Patriotism toward the U.S. drives many people to work hard for nation building and to realize their dreams in the New World. But these valuable way of life or ethic have been lost among many of the immigrant people these days. Charles Taylor says that `` Democratic societies , in their tremendous diversity, are powered by many different engines of commitment to a common ethic.``(2) Let me proceed my next argument. I believe the federal government is contributing to depriving of the opportunity to realize American Dream from among american people. Political leaders do not pay much attention to the serious situation facing many people today. They are suffering from unemployment, poor welfare programms and loss of hope for their future. The government spends too much money in strengthening military power to exert an enourmous influence in world politics. Jon Stepanian argues that ``it is important to note that last year the United States made up 46 percent of all worldwide military spending and dished out more than seven times as much money as the next runner up, China.`` And he stresses that ``Is war more important to us than feeding the hungry?``(3) Government should offer a large amount of financial aid for those who have lost jobs and homes. Today one in seven Americans lives below the poverty line.(4) Judging from my arguments, I believe that economic, social and politacal situations are not functioning favourably for realizing American Dreams. I look forward to Con`s argument.
References: (1) George C. Lodge, The American Disease, p.170 Afred A. Knopf, 1984
(2) Charles Taylor, Obstacles to a sense of solidarity in society, Japan Times, October 2, 2010
(3) and (4) Jon Stepanian , More americans die of poverty than terrorism, October 2,2010


Responding to my opponent's case:

1. Immigrants find American life difficult

I'm not sure how far back into history my opponent is trying to reach with this one. Is he talking about the Chinese and Irish experiences during the 1800's? Most immigrants who come to America do so because of the American Dream. As horrible as some of our historical treatment of immigrant groups was, the fact that so few of them left to return to their countries of origin proves two things: 1. Their lives, although they were discriminated against and mistreated, were likely better here than in their country of origin (because of the economic opportunities they gained) and 2. That they believed in the American Dream – that eventually American ideals, as expressed in the Constitution, would overtake the reality of their present situation. They believed things would change.

In addition, this does not represent the experience of legal immigrants today. Remember the Fareed Zakaria evidence I cited before that many immigrants come to the great American educational institutions and decide to stay because of the American Dream. These immigrants enjoy a great deal of success in the United States since half of all Silicon Valley startups are owned or operated in part by an immigrant.

The current experience of Americans who are of the Islamic faith is truly troubling to me. It, however, does not mean that the American Dream is dead or has come to an end.

Now is a good time to mention that my opponent's project in his most recent round to prove that "many Americans have trouble realizing the American Dream" does not prove an affirmation of the topic he chose, which is that "the American Dream has come to an end."

If hard times spelled an end to the American Dream, it should have ended with the Great Depression or the 9/11 attacks. Dreams are an aspiration, and they are forward-looking, not obsessed with the present tense. If they were obsessed with the present tense, Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech would have instead gone something like this:

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." [1]

"But none of these things have yet come to pass, so my dream is dead."

(Note: I inserted only the last line)

2. Military expenditures/poverty

The United States does spend a great deal of money on its military power, but it does so to help itself and others realize the American Dream. Many international relations scholars believe that America's military advantage prevents regional rivalries from flaring up, and our "command of the commons" keeps sea-lanes open and helps maintain global trade. In addition, our current wars are designed to deny safe havens to terrorists, such as Al Qaeda, who actually would like to see the American Dream come to an end.

Obama has also tried to meet many of my opponent's objections to American politics, to the point where he is being branded a "socialist" by the conservative right. Obama implemented a number of unemployment related benefits in the stimulus package, as listed in this Employment Law Update article entitled "Stimulus Bill Contains Numerous Employment-Related Provisions." [2] One such benefit is the COBRA plan, which provides insurance for people who recently lost their jobs. Obama also passed a bill aimed at achieving universal health care. So the situation in America is improving for the nation's poor. And by my opponent's standard that "as long as poverty exists then the American Dream is dead," then you would be forced to conclude that the American Dream never really existed at all.

An essential characteristic of the American Dream is that it is so persistent and difficult to extinguish. The American Dream is the embodiment of hope. And as The Architect said to Neo in the second Matrix movie, "Hope is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength and your greatest weakness." Hope is everything that makes us human, and it is the only thing that makes all of us more powerful than mere automatons carrying out their pre-determined programming. Hope is what allows us to aspire to, and thus achieve, a better life. Yes, sometimes we risk everything we have on hope (supposedly our greatest weakness), but doing so allows us to mold a more perfect Union (our greatest strength).

I leave you with Martin Luther King's famous words, once again, because I think they perfectly refute my opponent's position and perfectly uphold my own:

"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream."



Debate Round No. 2
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