Americans bitter as the dream turns sour

Jun 18 2008 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The unspoken contract between corporate America and its workers has always been that if you work hard, you have the opportunity to own a nice home, financial security for you and your family and hope for the future.

Yet more than half of US workers say that this simple American dream is now unattainable - and almost half blame the political system.

A workplace poll carried out last month for the Marlin Company, a workplace communications consulting company, found that almost three-quarters think that the American dream is less attainable today than it was eight years ago, while 52 percent believe that the average American can never attain it.

What's more, asked whether they felt that the political system represents their interests on workplace issues, such as healthcare, retirement, fuel prices and the economy, more than three-quarters (77 percent) said that it does not.

Women were even more unhappy than men about this, with eight out of 10 (82 percent) of female workers feeling unrepresented compared to 73 percent of male workers.

Six out of 10 of those questioned also blamed the political system for the growing economic gap between low-income and high-income Americans.

And unsurprisingly, nearly half (45 percent) said they felt "bitter" because the political system has caused a deterioration of their economic circumstances.

Just how much of a deterioration has been documented in a separate report by the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute which has found that an increasing proportion of US families find themselves on an economic roller coaster as they are swamped by a rising tide of income instability.

Short-term family income variance essentially doubled from 1969 to 2004, the report found, while the share of working-age people experiencing the loss of half or more of their household income rose from less than four percent in the early 1970s to nearly 10 percent in the 2000s.

What's more, factors such as two-earner households and advanced education have become less effective at staving off a family's risks of income swings.

"The lessening effectiveness of some of the things families typically do to improve their situation only compounds their worries," said Elizabeth Jacobs, co-author of the report. "The end result is more uncertainty with fewer options for getting their family onto more secure ground."

Meanwhile Frank Kenna, president of the Marlin Company, said that while Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama had taken a lot of heat for his 'bitter' comment, the poll demonstrated that workers clearly are 'bitter' about the US political system and economy.

"The Marlin workplace poll uncovered an attitude shift among US workers who are more disillusioned and fed up than ever," he said.

"And who do workers blame? The political system. They feel that politicians aren't speaking to them about important issues. There is clearly massive frustration here and candidates need to address this disconnect."

The poll should send a clear message to politicians that the average US worker is in pain, Kenna added. "The question is, 'Will our politicians go beyond talk to truly respond to the needs of US workers?'"