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Obama election signals a disbelief in the American Dream

By - Last modified: November 12, 2012 at 9:48 AM

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Brent Burkey

I'm always surprised how many Americans vote every four years for leaders who support the rights of the rich to keep their money. After all, so few Americans are truly wealthy, and human beings are jealous by nature.

But over the years, there's been the belief in this country that if you work hard enough, there is a ticket to the ranks of the 1 percent for you. And once people get there, they'll want to have the right to keep their money.

That's what the American Dream has been for as long as I can remember. It's the "pursuit of happiness," with emphasis on pursuit. It is what motivates people to work hard.

They spend long hours at the factory or at the office instead of with loved ones. People even push off having children in favor of getting more education and career advancement to the point of nearly missing their windows of opportunity to have a family.

They do this willingly to live a better life tomorrow – even though it might make their todays miserable. It's also a productivity driver that benefits the top line of the American economy greatly.

A referendum of this past election was about whether enough Americans believe all of this still pays off in the end. At the moment, and at least for enough people to help swing an election, the answer is a resounding "no."

It's hard to argue that, over the past few years and even past several decades, pursuing the American Dream has gotten more expensive, and the odds of succeeding have gotten worse.

Innovation in a competitive environment has had its side effects.

A high school education used to be more than enough for a good-paying factory job, and learning up to this level was something government fully supported.

Now, machines have replaced people and workers need to pay, at the very least, for a tech school degree just to compete for jobs as skilled operators. And even if every unemployed worker went back to school, there probably aren't enough of these spots for all of them.

On the white-collar level, it often takes a master's degree to get in the door at a successful firm at age 25 or 30 just to fetch coffee and do grunt work for five years for the chance of promotion to a limited number of good positions.

There will be winners under both scenarios, but such situations leave a lot of losers who will still have bills to pay — including the debt they've incurred trying to get a job in the first place.

That's one of the big reasons President Obama swung to such a large Electoral College victory nearly a week ago, and it's the one most likely to get lost in all the talk of shifting demographics.

Brent Burkey covers retail, tourism, and Lebanon and York counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at brentb@centralpennbusiness.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, @brentburkey.

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey covers York County, agribusiness, energy and environment, and workforce issues. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at brentb@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @brentburkey.

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