When I was growing up, despite the fact that we were poor, my Dad instilled in all eight of his kids the notion that we could be successful in life. He was a hard core beliver in the American Dream and American exceptionalism. He earned it by helping to save western civilization in WW II. My Dad believed in America, so we believed in America. America was the land of opportunity. We looked at wealthy, successful people as the embodiment of the American Dream come true. They were American heroes. To get there, my Dad believed we would all need a college education. That was drummed into all of us from an early age. But college costs money, so we all began working at an early age and this continued throughout our college years. That income helped pay for our college education. We were taught that society does not hand you anything for free. You have to work for the things you need and want. Like college. We were taught not to rely on anyone but ourselves. We were indoctrinated into believing that individual success was within our control. You just had to want it bad enough and work for it hard enough. We are adults now. Most of us are doing well in life. That American Dream parenting helped lift us up from poverty to the middle-class or higher.
Things have certainly changed in the last fifty years, as I found out in my five-year study of the rich and poor ( Rich Habits Study – Background on Methodology http://richhabits.net/rich-habits-study-background-on-methodology/). In most of the interviews I had with the poor in my study, they did not view America as the land of opportunity. 87% considered the American Dream, of unlimited opportunity, no longer achievable. The poor in my study believed that wealth and poverty were dictated by the circumstances you were born into. If you were born into a poor household, you were destined to be poor for life. What the heck happened? It’s clear that a shift in thinking has occurred during the last fifty years. Far too many have been indoctrinated into believing America is no longer the bastion of opportunity it was, just a generation ago. Let me share with you some of the beliefs embraced by the poor in my study:
- It’s government’s responsibility to end individual poverty
- The only way to end poverty was to redistribute the wealth from the haves to the have-nots
- Wealthy people are evil and greedy
- Government assistance is an entitlement, not welfare
- Poor people are exploited by businesses and employers
- Poor people are entitled to higher wages
- Poor people are entitled to medical coverage
- Poor people are entitled to a college education
- Poor people should not have to pay taxes and wealthy people should have to pay more taxes
- My individual poverty is not my fault. Wall Street, big business, and wealthy people are to blame for poverty or my financial circumstances
- Poor people are the victims of random bad luck and rich people are the beneficiaries of random good luck. Since wealth is the luck of the draw, it’s only fair that rich people give poor people some of their wealth
Most of the beliefs and habits that we pick up in life come from our parents. Parents are often the only shot any of us have at having a mentor in life. These beliefs make it clear that there has been a shift, over the last fifty years, in the way poor people view the American Dream. For many, the old American Dream of unlimited opportunity has been replaced by a new American Dream of unlimited entitlements. The can-do spirit in America that made America possible, has been replaced by a can’t do spirit. Individual responsibility for your financial circumstances has been replaced by an “it’s not my fault” ideology. As a result of this thinking, income inequality and the wealth gap are growing. Anti-America Parenting is changing the face of America.