Yet these days, the American Dream doesn't seem to be holding up so well. According to a recent poll, 64% of Americans think that “People do not have equal opportunities for success in the US,” almost twice the percentage of those who think equal opportunity exists in the US. In a separate poll, the rate of those who don't believe in this American Dream reached 45%, closing in on the 54% of those who do believe in it.
The biggest reason for more people being let down must be the extraordinary widening of the income gap in recent years. The Gini coefficient, which is a major index showing the income disparity between households, marked a record high in 2012. During the last 20 years, the top 1% of the income bracket increased their earnings by 86%, while the remaining 99% only saw an 18% gain. In real terms after adjusting for inflation, the average earnings for the lowest income class in 2012 was less than it was in 1968. Meanwhile, the people in the top 5% income bracket have doubled their earnings. Additionally, the worsening of the income gap was more notable after the financial crisis. Although the economic recovery after the financial crisis was dependent on FRB's ultra-loose monetary policy and rising asset values, from the point of social stability, this situation is surely unsustainable.
Meanwhile, the rich, who have enjoyed a steady growth of their income, are also voicing concern on the current situation. They fear that the mounting dissatisfaction with the inequality in society overall will increase resentment of the affluent, and they will be made the scapegoat. In fact, according to a recent poll, 54% think that “the rich and corporations should pay higher taxes to support the poor,” while only 35% think that “tax cuts are needed to stimulate economic growth.” The rich are no longer looked up to in society, and there is a growing view that a conflict is emerging between social classes.
Obviously, these changes are also becoming important political issues. Not only President Obama and the Democrats who have always been active on reducing inequality, but also the Republicans, who have traditionally refused government intervention on this issue and appealed for general improvement for the middle and low income class through economic growth, are starting to discuss the income gap problem. Major media are also reporting daily on the abnormal economic inequality from various angles. While these moves are encouraging constructive discussions on the optimal policy for reducing the income disparity, they are also spurring frustration against the society's affluent class.