This post was contributed by Tara McQuay, UTSA student in Miller's SOC 3013 class.
Although The American Dream says that hard work will lead to wealth and success, it doesn't seem to apply to most of us. Indeed, the smallest economic returns go to those generally laboring the hardest of all: the working poor. In the previous post, billionaire Thomas Peterffy argues in his anti-Obama ad that America's rich will lose motivation to work if they are required to pay more taxes. But while preaching the value of hard work, he fails to note that the rich have virtually monopolized income gains over recent years. Reflecting on the unequal opportunity for financial security that the class structure presents, the late Beth Shulman, in her 2005 book, The Betrayal of Work, was one of the first to examine the diminishing well-being of the working poor. In an interview on PBS's NOW in 2007 (view here, starting at about the 12:20 mark), she observed that worker productivity has grown significantly, but this has not trickled down to those in the bottom reaches of the American class structure. Indeed, "The top 1% is garnering 80% of income gains." (Today, it's over 90% going to the top 1%, according to Saenz). With this being said, how is it possible for most American workers, and particularly the poor, to sustain their dream of a better life when their incomes remain so low and stagnant that they continue to struggle just to get by?