Jack Says the American Dream is Over


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Dear Jack,

I’m tired. Tired of getting screwed by my employers. Tired of receiving excuses instead of raises. Tired of being afraid all the time of getting laid off. People say, if you’re not happy where you’re working, find a different job. I have. It’s the same everywhere you go. There’s no money in the budget for raises, yet the bosses and the owners are buying second houses and fancy cars and taking expensive vacations. They don’t even try to hide it anymore.

It doesn’t help when I compare myself to my father and where he was when he was at my age. I’ve got a college degree. He had a high school diploma. I’ve worked for 11 different companies. He worked for the same company from the age of 20 until the day he retired – at 55. I’m making exactly the same gross salary that he was when he was my age, but that was 25 years ago, and his health insurance was free. There’s no way on Earth I’m retiring when I’m 55.

I’m sick of being lied to. The American Dream died for my generation. The other day a friend of mine said he was thinking about moving to the beach and being totally useless for the rest of his life, because he’s just as tired as I am.

--Sick of It All

Dear Sicko,

What, you wrote just to complain? This is an advice column, not the agony column.

Welcome to the real world, pal. Did you just get off the boat? The American Dream’s murdered corpse had rotted to bones in the ditch long before your generation learned to ride on two wheels. It was never much of a dream anyway. For a few years, a man with a high school diploma could get ahead in the world. Before that, people worked until they died.

So yes, you’ve been lied to. The world sold you a bill of goods. So what are you going to do? You can move to Jamaica and live off the money you make braiding people’s hair. You can try out for American Idol. You can play Powerball and hope for the best. You may already be a winner!

You can swallow it and get along as best you can. This is what most people are doing today. No, you’re not going to retire at 55, and when you do retire at 67 or 70 or whenever the politicians say you can, you’ll have to live off what you’ve saved or mooch off your kids, because the same politicians who set the retirement age will have robbed Social Security of every penny in order to buy more yachts for billionaires.

You can sell your soul and become one of the bosses, if second homes and fancy cars are what you really want out of life. Those things are nice, but they can be taken away – usually by ex-wives.

Or you can make your own world. Stop working for The Man and become The Man. Only, be a better The Man than the liars you’ve known all your life. It’s not about becoming a tycoon. Just try to maintain. Take care of the people who work for you. You’ll work harder than you ever will working for someone else, and you’ll never be a billionaire and you won’t be able to retire early, but at least you will have done some good. And that’s all we can really ask for – the chance to do some good.

Got a problem? Let Jack Waggon set you straight: jack.wagg@gmail.com

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