The Republican version of the American Dream is a perverted vision, one where owners are successes and employees are the filth between your toes after a long hike through a swamp in ill-fitting boots. What is Mitt Romney's recipe for success?
We've always encouraged young people take it, take a shot, go for it. Take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents. Start a business.How does Paul Ryan define success?
Do you want the American idea of an opportunity society with a safety net where you can take a risk, start a business, make a difference, succeed and be honored for being successful? Or do we go down the path the president is proposing -- a social welfare state, a cradle-to-the-grave society where we have more takers than makers.How about Reince Priebus?
Well, how would he know? President Obama’s never run a company. He hasn’t even run a garage sale or seen the inside of a lemonade stand. So it’s time for a President with real experience in the real economy.Here is what Tom Sternberg, the co-founder of Staples, had to say about Democrats:
They don’t believe in the spirit of the entrepreneur. They don’t understand what it means to risk money to create something new. They don’t understand the hard work it takes to get a business off the ground. The sacrifices you make, the Little League games you miss. They don’t see that this is a country of opportunity, where someone like myself, the son of immigrants, born in Newark, New Jersey … can live the American dream.Then there's Eric Cantor, on Labor Day:
Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.They are full of it.
The phrase "American Dream" has been around in one form or another for a long time, but it was popularized by historian James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book Epic of America:
But there has been also the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.Martin Luther King envisioned an American Dream that included blacks as well as whites:
We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands...when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.Neither of those definitions excluded all but business owners. In fact, the American Dream was at its fullest when the post-war America boomed through union-worker manufacturing.
So how should our President respond? This is what I would like to hear.
This country was built on the American Dream, a dream that every person would enjoy the fruits of his labors, the benefit of her talents and education, unhampered by artificial ceilings based upon birth, title, race, or gender. That every generation would pass a better life and a better world to their children. That America was a land of equal opportunity for every man and woman.
My opponents have a very different version of the American Dream. In their dream the only people who can call themselves "successful" are business owners. The father who works two jobs to send his children to college he could never afford? To Mitt Romney that man is a failure. The single mother who gets a promotion due to hard work and loyalty, a promotion that lets her buy her children a computer or new school clothes? She's not part of the dream, either. Neither is the union worker building a new generation of American car for a surging American auto industry, even though that worker is making enough money in his pocket and pride in his work to buy one of those cars as it comes off the line.
I disagree with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. I, too, know the value of the American Entrepreneur. The small business owner is the backbone of America. But the worker, the hard working man or woman on the assembly line, on the construction site, or in the cubicle, is the muscle and the heart of America. Without a backbone AND a heart AND the muscles to do the work, there is no American Dream.
So I say to my opponents, stop hating the worker. Stop telling the employee he's a "taker," that she doesn't count, that they're not part of the American dream.
There's nothing wrong with being an employee. I should know, because I'm an employee. I work for you.