Is it the television, or the weak beer, or the movies aimed at 19-year-olds, or what?
In the face of a recession that has destroyed billions in family savings and home values, Americans remain convinced that personal initiative and hard work are the key to big rewards, and they continue to repudiate the idea of government intervention to alleviate economic inequality, according to two Pew-sponsored reports.
Not only do voters continue to be convinced, by large majorities, that they, and not government or big corporations, control their own destinies in the midst of the current recession, but they do so despite more long-term evidence suggesting that there is less class mobility in the United States than in most Northern European countries, or in Canada, and that U.S. wages have not kept up with productivity gains for the past three decades.
It’s the attitude of everyone for themselves, and the devil take the hindmost, that makes us Americans. That leaves us far behind the rest of the world as it adapts to conditions that require coöperation instead of the old ethic of competition.
A survey of 2119 respondents conducted by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies for the Pew Economic Mobility Project asked: “Currently the country is in a recession. Do you believe it is still possible for people to improve their economic standing?”
Eighty percent answered “yes,” including 56 percent answering “strongly” in the affirmative. Only 16 percent said “no.”
African Americans, Hispanics and persons under 40 were even more affirmative than the public as a whole, with “yes” to “no” ratios respectively 83-15, 86-11, and 85-13.
Makes sense. African-Americans, Hispanics, and young people hardly ever encounter the kind of discrimination that would make you think government action could help. And everyone knows big corporations are blameless by definition.