In this times of crisis in Europe, many people still believe in the so-called American Dream. But according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz in a recent interview with Der Spiegel, they shouldn’t.
Stiglitz says the finance industry is to blame for the growing divide between the rich and poor in the United States, and he accuses the industry of preying on the poor and buying government policies that help them get richer.
Interview from Der Spiegel:
SPIEGEL: Professor Stiglitz, how do you expect the next President of the United States to tackle the problem of unequal distribution of wealth?
Stiglitz: First, he has to recognize that there is a problem at all. Watching inequality grow is like watching the grass grow. You don’t see it happening day by day, but over a period of time it becomes visible.
SPIEGEL: What is the scale this inequality?
Stiglitz: In the last decades, income and wealth disparity have grown dramatically in this country. Let me give you an example: In 2011, the six heirs to the Walmart empire commanded wealth of almost $70 billion, which is equivalent to the wealth of the entire bottom 30 percent of US society.
SPIEGEL: The US has always thought of itself as a land of opportunity where people can go from rags to riches. What has become of the American dream?
Stiglitz: This belief is still powerful, but the American dream has become a myth. The life chances of a young US citizen are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in any other advanced industrial country for which there is data. The belief in the American dream is reinforced by anecdotes, by dramatic examples of individuals who have made it from the bottom to the top — but what matters most are an individual’s life chances. The belief in the American dream is not supported by the data.
A definite must-read for people who still believe the grass is greener on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean… It may not be that green after all.