For more than two centuries, the American dream had attracted people from all over the world, especially from Europe, who found political freedom, exceptional universities, and an unmatched opportunity to become entrepreneurs in the United States. In contrast, others made the mistake of going to Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, or some other new land to seek their fortune, and these places have not been able to keep their promises.
But what about today? The American dream seems to be turning into a nightmare: the standard of living of most citizens of the United States, and of the foreigners who live there, has not increased for forty years, while the standard of living of the richest has more than doubled; life expectancy is falling for several social groups, including white men. Drug use, including the hardest drugs, affects more than thirty million people, ten million of whom are regular users of hard drugs. Social safety nets are virtually non-existent; the number of extremely poor people has increased to over 40 million, while the homes of the richest, in iconic California locations, are being destroyed by fires that are increasingly out of control. The environmental situation of the country is calamitous. More than 30 million Americans may face eviction because they cannot pay their rent or mortgage. The financial system, which on the surface appears to be prosperous, relies entirely on fragile speculative mechanisms. 63 of the 75 largest cities are unable to service their debts; corporate debt exceeds three-quarters of GDP; households carry a record $15 trillion in debt; and government debt is reaching never before seen levels. 31,000 bridges (one-third of the total number of bridges) require repair and maintenance, and 46,000 bridges are in danger of collapse. The school system is such a disaster that foreign students are taking up most of the places of the country’s top universities; and 45 million of those Americans who were able to get into those universities are now riddled with debt. The unemployment rate is at 15% of the population, and more than 25% for young people of Asian or African-American origin. Finally, Congress and the Senate have failed to agree on a social safety net policy, which will push tens of millions of people into the most extreme situation of precarity.
The core values of American society are being undermined: sectarianism, communitarianism, and racism among its people are creating an atmosphere of mutual exclusion between Blacks and Whites, men and women, and republicans and democrats. The most extreme conspiracy theories flourish; cults, born in the most manipulative virtual sphere, like QAnon, are becoming real, proposing a reading of the world and related acts that are totally undemocratic, which can be reduced to slaughtering a few scapegoats. Less than a third of Americans born in the 1980s think it is essential to live in a democracy; and the rest are ready to challenge their democracy to defend their individual rights to bear arms or the right to disobey the minimum rules for living together.
Regardless of who becomes the next president, things are unlikely to change quickly: we know that Donald Trump will continue to favour the richest and push the country into a major identity crisis. We can guess that Joe Biden, as honourable as he is, will have neither the energy nor the political capital to launch the immense necessary reforms.
Before a new generation takes up the challenge and leads the charge for the rebirth of a nation that lives up to the ideals and principles of its Founding Fathers, which we are hoping will happen, American democracy will experience its darkest hours. And, as we have seen, British citizens are increasingly taking the nationality of European Union member states, and Argentinians are looking back to the nationality of their grandparents, we may one day see similar movements from the United States to the Old Continent. Movements of ideas, people, and capital.
For this to happen, the European Union would have to implement the project of a democratic, fair, and environmentally sustainable continent that defends freedom everywhere in the world and that is endowed with power. We will then be able to talk seriously about a “European dream.”