Illusions of Opportunity: The American Dream in Question

John E. Schwarz, Author
John E. Schwarz, Author W. W. Norton & Company $23.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-393-04534-5
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Arguing that economic indicators like the unemployment rate fail to measure actual opportunities available to the American worker, Schwarz, who teaches political science at the University of Arizona, makes a strong case that the principle of ""economic independence,"" central to the thinking of the Constitution's framers, has been cynically abandoned by our leaders. He is passionate--and convincing--about his claim, documented with hundreds of statistics, that a quarter of U.S. households depend on work that does not provide them with even a baseline standard of decent living. His prose often reads like a political speech, but his logic never departs from his statistics, and the idea that economic opportunity has dried up as the wage discrepancy between the highest- and lowest-paid workers grows is not hard to accept. Schwarz's admonition that we ""direct our sights to a fresh model... where the opportunity to work exists for all,... where all who do work receive an adequate return"" seems as inspired as the Bill of Rights, though his proposed enactment of a package of tax breaks, incentives and job creation would, he notes, cost taxpayers an estimated $180 billion. Yet, as he points out, ""Personal responsibility without opportunity is a contradiction in terms."" (Sept.)
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