The American Dream is fading everywhere, but almost nowhere faster than Michigan

fading american dream

For three generations, the odds of outearning your parents has dropped. Today, a young person’s odds of climbing higher than their parents are no better than a coin flip.


Kyle Kaminski, right, earns less than his father Bryan did when he was Kyle’s age. That’s the norm now in Michigan.

In 1977, Bryan Kaminski walked out of high school and into an Ypsilanti factory. By 19, the General Motors employee, making what amounted to $26 an hour in today’s dollars, had enough money to buy a house.

In 2012, son Kyle Kaminski walked out of high school and onto the campus of Central Michigan University. Five years later, armed with a bachelor’s degree, he earns $16 an hour as a reporter, the equivalent of 60 percent of what his father made straight out of high school. He rents a small Traverse City apartment he can only afford because his girlfriend splits the rent. He drives a 12-year-old car with 185,000 miles on it that he doesn’t know how he’ll ever be able to afford to replace.

RELATED: In Bay City, Trump supporters march for jobs they are sure will come

SLIDESHOW: Feel like you’re not earning as much as you parents? You’re probably right.

Bryan Kaminski does repairs on his son’s 2005 Ford Focus, recently replacing wheel bearings, to keep the car limping along.

“How these kids are doing it these days, I don’t know,” Bryan said.

“I’m hoping when I’m 30 I can be where my dad was at 19,” said Kyle. He’s uncertain that will happen.

The American Dream is just a dream for more and more Michigan residents. Today, your chances of out-earning your parents are less than 50-50. And while upward mobility has declined across the nation, Michigan residents have some of the worst odds of climbing the economic ladder in the country.s

It wasn’t always that way. In 1970, about 93 percent of Michigan’s 30-year-olds were earning more than their parents did at the same age (when adjusted for inflation), according to a recent Stanford University study. By 2010, just 46 percent in Michigan were out-earning their parents.

The findings capture the frustrating dichotomy of modern economics. Unemployment is low and the stock market is high. But the standard economic indicators cited by politicians and business leaders belie the checkbook realities for many families, where workers bring home paychecks that provide a lower standard of living than that of their parents.

The implications of a fading American Dream are far-reaching, from huge swaths of working-age adults not even looking for work, to anger expressed at the polls for lives that don’t measure up to the dream we’ve been sold.

“This is a core aspect of American identity, providing a better lifestyle for your children,” said Robert Manduca, a Harvard graduate student and researcher who co-authored the Stanford report. “It’s what draws immigrants to this country and what we all expect. When it fails to happen, it makes people feel the country hasn’t lived up its promise.”

Broken dream

The study, which analyzed decades of data from the Census and tax returns, found young people entering the workforce in recent years are less likely to out-earn their parents compared with children born in the two generations before them.

The ability of children to climb higher on the economic ladder “is one of the things we think about (which sets) America apart,” Manduca said. “We had the sense that this core piece of the American Dream isn’t as solid as we’d like to believe. But it wasn’t until we ran the analysis that we realized the magnitude” of the decline.

Nationally, the odds have dropped from about 90 percent in 1970 (for those who were 30 that year), to about 50 percent in 2010.

Michigan was a top American Dream state in 1970, ranked 13th among the 50 states with 93 percent out-earning their parents. By 2010, Michigan had plummeted to 48th in the nation, ahead of only Alaska and Nevada, with only 46 percent faring better than their parents.

Economy up, but workers? Not so much

Most of the decline in upward mobility across America, according to the Stanford researchers, can be blamed on growing income disparity between those at the top of the economic pile and those in the middle. “The economy is growing slower, and almost all the growth has accrued to the top (earners),” Manduca said. “Wages for the bottom 50 percent haven’t gone up in 40 years (adjusted for inflation).”

The widening gap between the haves and have-nots is exemplified in Michigan, with its history of a large, prosperous blue-collar middle class, said Michigan State University economist Charles Ballard. “My friend’s father came here from Poland in the 1940s, penniless,” Ballard said. “For 30 years, he attached the left rear door handle on cars, and he went from nothing to the middle class.

“We rode the manufacturing wave so successfully in the 20th Century,” Ballard said “It made perfect rational sense to not go to college. You weren’t dumb to not go to college when you could walk across the street to the Fisher Body plant and make upper middle class wages.”

Today, a high school diploma is a more difficult ticket to the middle class. While the unemployment rate in Michigan is lower than it has been in more than a decade (the preliminary figure for April is 4.7 percent), a lot of those jobs aren’t paying what they used to. For example, new General Motors workers make significantly less (about $16 an hour) than what Bryan Kaminski earned ($26 an hour in today’s dollars) straight out of high school in 1977.  

The median hourly wage in Michigan is lower today ($17.32) than it was 10 years ago ($18.67). That 7 percent decline ranks Michigan dead last among states, with Michigan being one of only eight states where residents have lost ground since 2007.

And that’s only the adults who are working.

Michigan also ranks 40th in the nation in the share of adults in the workforce, another data point hidden by that upbeat unemployment rate, which only measures those actively looking for jobs, said Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit working to improve the state’s economy.  

In 2014, just 56 percent of Michigan residents over the age of 16 had jobs, compared with 67 percent in Minnesota. If the same percentage of Michigan residents were employed as they are in Minnesota, there would be 847,000 more people bringing home paychecks.

“Our former avenue to the middle class has been cut off now,” Ballard said. “And we in Michigan have been a day late and a dollar short in adjusting to these changes.”

Pay, pay, pay

Study co-author Manduca said there was no clear lesson to be drawn between states with higher rates of upward economic mobility and those with less. The states where residents have the best odds of earning more than their parents are South Dakota (62 percent chance), North Dakota (59 percent) and Montana (59 percent). The bottom states are Michigan (46 percent) Nevada (40 percent), and Alaska (38 percent).

Instead, Manduca said, the study’s findings suggest we may be focusing on the wrong economic indicators.

Politicians and business leaders focus on increasing jobs, Manduca said. But to make the American Dream a reality for more people, leaders may need to focus instead on wages.

“In general, we need much higher wages across a wider income distribution,” Manduca said. “One thing we’ve overlooked as a country is that economic growth by itself doesn’t have an uplifting effect on the country as a whole if it doesn’t include rising wages.”

Instead of jobs, jobs, jobs, the mantra should be pay, pay pay. Ballard said.  “We should focus on median wage,” Ballard said. “It doesn’t get nearly as much play as the unemployment rate.”

Michigan Future’s Glazer agrees. “That’s what our new report tries to address – a rising tide does not lift all boats,” Glazer said.

Michigan and other states have at various times made policy decisions to incentivize companies to increase jobs. But what if states incentivize ways to increase worker pay?

Another, less radical idea suggested by Glazer: implement policies that increase the number of Michigan residents with college degrees. Those with bachelor’s degree have lower unemployment rates and earn, on average, $1 million more over the course of their careers than those with a high school diploma.

Michigan is below the national average in the percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“To me, the most important recommendation in our report is explicitly making the goal rising income for all Michiganders, instead of a growing the economy and lots of folks still not doing well,” Glazer said.

One of those folks is Kyle Kaminski. He said he loves his job as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle,  but the college grad can’t avoid comparing himself to his  father. He admits being “kind of jealous” of his father’s higher rung on the economic ladder, despite his father only having a high school diploma.

Bryan Kaminski said he realizes how much easier it was for him, coming of age in the 1970s, than for his son today.

“I worry about it,” Bryan Kaminski said. “I’m not sure what Michigan has to offer now.”

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Thu, 05/25/2017 - 9:30am

Instead of analyzing child vs. parent, how about looking at those with similar jobs. Of course a factory worker will out-earn a reporter, a construction worker will out-earn a librarian, and a nurse will out-earn a burger flipper. It is just the value that each adds to our lives, with value being our perception of what is important to each of us. When I push the little thingy on the white bowl in the bathroom, I expect it to go whoosh, and when it doesn't, I'd pay more to have it fixed than to look at a pretty picture someone painted. Also realize, that over time, athe job that paid well changed to make it easier and less dirty. The jobs that pay the most are usually the ones that most people want the least.

David Waymire
Thu, 05/25/2017 - 11:49am

Rich, the factory worker TODAY isn't outearning the reporter..."For example, new General Motors workers make significantly less (about $16 an hour) than what Bryan Kaminski earned ($26 an hour in today’s dollars) straight out of high school in 1977. "
And that's an important point. The reporter is earning today what the factory worker would earn right from the start. But the reporter has skills and learning that will let him get better and better jobs going forward. The factory worker will likely see his or her job replaced by a robot momentarily...and that person will be looking for a $12 an hour job next time.

Michigan Observer
Thu, 05/25/2017 - 10:23pm

Rich's comment is pretty good. He says, "It is just the value that each adds to our lives, with value being our perception of what is important to each of us. " The value we contribute to the community at large is in fact what determines our pay. It is called Marginal Revenue Product. But he is not quite right when he says, "The jobs that pay the most are usually the ones that most people want the least." The jobs that pay the most are those that don't have a lot of people competing for because most people aren't qualified to do them. Compensation for a job is determined by supply and demand like everything else. When the supply of people competing for a job is large, the price, the compensation is driven down pretty low.

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 10:05pm

It's certainly not true that the jobs that pay most are those that don't have a lot of people competing for them. It is NOT determined by supply ad demand, not at ALL. If it were, RNs in hospitals would earn a decent wage ; instead, they've seen nothing but cuts. If it were true, TEACHERS in schools would not have constant wage cuts, but would earn more, especially those in science and mathematics, shortage areas both. If it were true, software developers for specialized platforms would earn what they used to earn in the 1980s, since there are shortages in specialized areas.

No, it's all about the greed of the CEO class of monsters who want it all, and the deliberate planned and executed war on workers, with Michigan as test grounds for the worst abuses. CEOs in this state take over 1200times what the lowest paid worker (who doesn't earn enough to live in poverty on, even) works to earn. For nothing: that's the value that CEOs add: nothing. IT's greed, people, and we'd best start talking about it.

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 7:04pm

You mean you don't think the "Business leaders of Michigan" that we read about in various articles on Bridgemi don't have the best interests of the workers in mind? LOL

Bob Balwinski
Thu, 05/25/2017 - 9:57am

My sons..........a CEO of a small company and a System Architect for a firm........make way more than I did even adjusted for inflation. Of course, I was a teacher......'nuff said.

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 10:07pm

Wonder if the workers in the corporation where your son is the CEO, earn a living wage. Or does your son take the lions share for himself?

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 8:47pm


I wonder if you understand why businesses have CEOs, if you understand the role/responsibilities and necessary knowledge/skills are for an effective CEO, if you appreciate the impact a skilled CEO can have on the sustainability of a business [with the employment it generates].

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 5:18pm

I can appreciate the value added by a CEO and still recognize that many are grossly overpaid for that value-added

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 12:17am

Yes, they are worth perhaps 10% of what they pay themselves, they probably often hard working and knowledgeable, they can rob people blind in an instant. Big bucks for big people!!

R. Lemke
Thu, 05/25/2017 - 10:15am

In 1966 I earned $ 2.00 an hour in the paper mill. In 1967 I earned $ 4.00 per hour as a laborer . Today 50 years later the minimum wage just went to $ 8.90 per hour You tell me. R.L.

Robyn Tonkin
Sat, 05/27/2017 - 4:58pm

Since a wage of $4 in 1967 had the buying power that $29 has in 2017, there are more factors causing the low minimum wage of today than the inflationary trajectory of currency. I made $2.00 an hour washing dishes in my dorm at the University of Michigan in 1973, and today, where I live in northern Wisconsin, they are paying minimum wage for the same job, and the jobs go begging. In 1973, nobody expected you to behave as though a dishwashing career was going to put food on the table and a roof over your head--it was a pick-up job for a college kid who needed spending money. Today, however, lots of rightwing people talk as though a $9 an hour job--which is $20 an hour below the earning power of a $4 an hour job in 1967--should support you in frugal, yet comfortable style. This is how they get struggling people off their conscience--that's what I tell you.

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 7:50am

Republicans just do not govern well. Their constituency and focus primarily corps, the wealthy and relgious

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 12:14am

yes they have a horrible record of running the state into the ground. Yet the people love their rhetoric and false promises, especially the people in rural areas.

Michigan Observer
Sun, 05/28/2017 - 3:40pm

Robyn Tonkin says, " In 1973, nobody expected you to behave as though a dishwashing career was going to put food on the table and a roof over your head--it was a pick-up job for a college kid who needed spending money. " Nothing has changed since 1973. No one, except fast food workers expects fast food pay " to put food on the table and a roof over your head". I know of no one who expects a $9 an hour job to support anyone.

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 11:41am

So people - when the Gov. reduced taxes for Michigan businesses and increased taxes for Michigan residents he said it will increase jobs. To which I say bullpucky.
A quote from this article refutes that. "Michigan also ranks 40th in the nation in the share of adults in the workforce, another data point hidden by that upbeat unemployment rate, which only measures those actively looking for jobs"
Taking into account that national vehicle sales have been trending dramatically up the last four / five years we know what will happen to jobs when vehicle sales continue to drop as they have thus far this year.
So to apply Lansing's republican prior logic that means another cut to Michigan's business taxes and another increase to Michigan residents. Will business and republican politicians continue to skip hand in hand to residential lue-loss for all future years to come? Probably - as long as republicans are in power its more than likely given past precedent.

So what can residents do? Well next years elections will be soon upon us and if you vote republican's in power once more - buckle up for greater residential taxation and less funding for Michigan municipalities and less money for better roads.

On a greater scale the republicans in Washington have clearly stated that they could care less for the working class which is what Snyder and his minions have said for years.
Michigan residents need to stop playing Russian Roulette with automatic pistols when they vote republican. Vote instead to give our children and grandchildren a chance to a better life before they all move out to a state that cares.

Caroline Robinson
Thu, 05/25/2017 - 12:47pm

Henry Ford knew that only by paying workers enough to by Ford cars would his business prosper. Governing by scarcity leads to scarcity. Read the book Hillbilly Ellegy for some insight also.
Our best and brightest have been going to elite business schools where they learn to view workers as a commodity; work ever longer and harder for the least pay ever. In our society we lack community ethics. Look to Germany for a better way of valuing workers.

Michigan Observer
Thu, 05/25/2017 - 4:50pm

Ms. Robinson says, "Henry Ford knew that only by paying workers enough to by Ford cars would his business prosper." Does she think that Henry Ford could stay in business just selling cars to his employees? The reason he paid his employees five dollars a day was to reduce his costs. He had been paying competitive wages, but found that to be very costly in terms of turnover and supervision costs. Because workers could go down the street and get a job paying just as much as Ford did, they were constantly changing jobs. And because they could easily get another job paying just as much, they didn't particularly care if they got fired for not doing a good job. But when they were making considerably more than they could elsewhere, they placed a higher value on their job and did care about keeping it.

And since when was scarcity a choice? It is, and always has been, a fact of life. There has never been enough good stuff. Economics is all about dealing with scarcity.

And yes, people do go to business school to learn how to produce goods and services at the least possible cost. Think about it. If we use the fewest resources possible to produce something, doesn't that mean the consumer has to work fewer hours to buy it? The inevitable dilemma we face is that we cannot simultaneously benefit both producers (workers) and consumers. If automating a process reduces its cost by 30%, we have a choice of benefiting consumers or workers. Someone might argue that
the workers purchasing power that we preserve by not automating will benefit everybody. But you have reduced consumers' purchasing power by an equivalent amount. So there is no gain. You have hurt consumers for no reason.

Mary Fox
Thu, 05/25/2017 - 6:44pm

We know that the middle class drives the economy. Why do we cut taxes on business? Cut it on the middle class and raise the taxes on the rich. use tax dollars for things the middle class wants instead of giving welfare payments to business. If the middle cass have the bucks to spend, business will come. Right-to-work-for-less bills killed us.

Lorrie Frey
Sun, 05/28/2017 - 5:05pm

And we do not have a scarcity of workers, sooooo.... While I loathe DJT. I can see the allure of his ideas of banning immigrants who are by and large poor and unskilled.

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 8:11am

Henry Ford increased his wages not because he just wanted to be good guy, he raised wages because his worker's productivity made huge leaps with his production line introduction. With this we could demand the very best employees available. This is the part that the Leftists can't understand and only see increased wages. It's productivity that drives real and long term wage increases, not union contracts or government mandates.
Another left-wing fantasy is that it's the middle class that drives the economy. Cell phones for one of many example were the thing for the rich and were very expensive yet businesses recognized the demand and drove the costs down the their reach (and put the middle class to work making it happen). Today the destitute and homeless have cellphones. I'm surprised Mary doesn't also say the the government drives prosperity!

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 5:37pm

Productivity has soared in the last 40 years while wages have been stagnant.

What cell phones are made in America?
The middle class do not drive our economy? Cheap goods buy themselves?
Matt you and your children will pay dearly for your devotion to propaganda because it alleviates your feelings of inadequacy in the GW Bush economy.

Jerome Bigge
Fri, 05/26/2017 - 2:44am

Michigan is now a "right to work" state which means you can go to work where a union exists, but don't have to join the union or pay dues. A consequence of this is the slow death of labor unions. Without labor unions, wages and benefits fall. Workers have to compete with each other for the now increasing scarce jobs that are a result of automation, outsourcing, and imports of manufactured goods outside the USA.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 05/26/2017 - 8:05am

"Another, less radical idea suggested by Glazer: implement policies that increase the number of Michigan residents with college degrees. Those with bachelor’s degree have lower unemployment rates and earn, on average, $1 million more over the course of their careers than those with a high school diploma."

Instead of focusing on that fallacy of a college degree being THE solution (provided that person is able to choose the right field of study), why is there nothing being mentioned regarding people undergoing training in the skilled trades to better their financial standing in life?

Much better than the numbers cited in the article above.

Mike Rowe has spoken about this for years now (and even has set up a scholarship program to help promote it).

The Bridge even printed a piece earlier this year from a construction company that is working on training its own work force to deal with a shortage of qualified candidates.

The work might not be glamorous. It might hard some times. But, if the desire is there (yes, there will need to be some learning involved), there are careers currently available nationwide for people looking to move up the economic ladder.

And without placing yourself in debt paying off students loans for a degree that might not be in demand by the time you finish.

David Waymire
Fri, 05/26/2017 - 10:04am

Kevin, skilled trades are certainly important. No, they probably won't pay as much over a lifetime as a college grad, particularly if you are working for a non-union company that doesn't provide a pension. If you are in construction, you may earn a decent hourly wage, but you will be laid off months at a time...and years at a time when the economy tanks. You likely won't want to be doing heavy lifting when you are 55, so you may retire or take a less strenuous job that probably, without an education, will pay less. But it's a great option. The problem is, most skilled trades workers today produce products that are used by college graduates. The buildings being constructed in Detroit today, for instance, are full of college grads, for offices, for homes (factory workers can't afford a new home in today's $15 an hour factory work world), and for places to play (how many factory workers will end up in the new Red Wings stadium, compared to college grads with higher disposable incomes?) So if we are not creating and attracting college grads, skilled trades workers will find themselves moving to places that DO attract college talent to work. That's the big picture...

Kevin Grand
Fri, 05/26/2017 - 3:02pm

And the electricians? HVAC? Plumbers? Truck drivers (just to name a few)?

I don't see those as being solely "seasonal" jobs. As a matter of fact, I see them around the area throughout the entire year.

I also don't see someone with a liberal arts degree (well NOT that many, anyway) , rewiring a room, installing a household generator, putting in a new furnace/AC unit, redoing a bathroom, or even driving a 53' truck carrying the items needed to do the aforementioned along the way. So the demand for those jobs will encompass a wider customer base than you might think.

And from what I understand, many of those also offer 401(K). So, unless you're in government in some capacity or education, pensions aren't really an option any longer.

You're also overlooking the flip-side of the coin. Even IF someone with a college degree is working in one of those positions with the better pay that people use as an argument for, unless that person received a full ride or had someone else pay for their education, most of that individual's paycheck is going to get eaten up paying back those student loans (on top of rent/mortgage, vehicle note, utilities, etc).

Someone working within skilled trades does have that monkey on their financial back.

So, who is really ahead there?

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 3:50pm

Truck driving is not a desirable job for many people and the turnover rate is high, the pay is not very good for most of them anymore, you often spend weeks on the road and end up sleeping in your truck. There are a great many openings in that field because its a lousy job.

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 2:34pm

That depends on whom you talk to.

You can get a job driving local or regional, where you don't end up being on the road for weeks on end.

It all boils down to your job record and work ethic.

And again, Truck Driving was only one example. And just like any career, why would anyone go into a field without first exploring what the work entails and what their options were before going into it?

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 7:46pm

To get a local or regional job driving job most of the time you have to put in a lot of hours in long distance driving that is not attractive for the previous mentioned reasons, its doable of course but with no guarantee of a local or regional job as the payoff.

Robyn Tonkin
Sat, 05/27/2017 - 5:12pm

I have a college degree in a natural resources field, and I minored in the Classics-- Latin, Classical, Archaeology, and the history of the Ancient Near East. Very liberal arts there. I have driven a standard shift 3/4 ton diesel Ford long box pickup with topper towing an enclosed 12 foot trailer on 20 trips (alone) from the UP to the east coast or Florida, or from the east back home. I can finish drywall, do composition roofing (alone), sand a floor, repair plastic plumbing line, repair 100 year old plaster walls and hardwood flooring, reasonably trouble shoot some problems with cars or electric wiring, dig deep holes, pump out the drywell with a little pump on a garden hose, pound boards down into a mud road to make corduroy, pound the ice dam off the roof with a maul, and take care of sick people and raise children and take care of a husband. What your education is has nothing to do with what you can DO. I am also a crack shot with a handgun and rifle who finds the gun nuts of today nauseating.

We earned more than my dad and mom, and our daughter and her husband are already earning more than us. We had to leave Michigan for years at a time to do well, and my husband had to have two professional careers. Our daughter and her husband have had to leave MIchigan permanently to do well. We all chose the military route and the civil service route.

Needless to say, my husband can do way more than me--he is the one who can do all the car repairs, the carpentry, and the really skilled stuff. How else do you expect to get ahead today?

Kevin Grand
Fri, 05/26/2017 - 3:03pm

Been typing too fast.

"Someone working within skilled trades DOESN'T have that monkey on their financial back."

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 7:14pm

Your experience and presumptions may not be in tune with today.
'Construction’ work has become year round, new houses in Michigan, commercial, industrial are all year round. As for the skills, I would expect welders working on pipeline [just one example] are earning in the 6 figures, Just as those in the construction industry, those with college degrees are learning that income is based on the nature of the knowledge and skills possessed and the effectiveness of their application influences employment and wages.

As for attracting college graduates, consider where the political rhetoric is focused; is most of it about encouraging those with 'college degrees' such as engineers, or accountants, of chemists and physicists, by holding them up as successes to be emulated, is the work and sacrifice they made to earn those degrees heralded as the pathway to financial success or is the talk about how the system has failed the unemployed, is it about spending on those who are not working to learn the in demand knowledge and skills? Human nature responds to feedback they receive for what they do; held up as success to be admired, held up as selfish and as those that should have benefits of their success taken away from them, and [the most powerful] is to simply ignore and neglect them.

Are you one that taughts those that have earned the STEM degrees or are you one that talks most about about the system and how it has failed those who have earn such degrees, or do you simply ignore the kids in your community that have earn the degrees you seem to think Michigan needs. A simple test, how many graduates from your local high school in any given years have earn a STEM degree, does the high schools even care about that by following up with graduates?

Michigan Observer
Sun, 05/28/2017 - 4:42pm

Mr. Waymire says, "The problem is, most skilled trades workers today produce products that are used by college graduates." True enough, college graduates do buy products produced by skilled workers, but college graduates are only about 23% of Michigan's population. Does he mean to say that the other 77% don't buy any products produced by skilled workers? Obviously, people with higher incomes generate more demand for everything than low income people, but there are a lot of people with good incomes who don't have college degrees.

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 8:24am

It appears here is another example of a failure in our education system with a bit of partisan politics thrown in. It seems Mr. French and Mr. Glazer and others don’t realize that the American Dream was codified in 1789 in the US Constitution; it is about opportunity, about freedom, and about self-reliance. That was the American Dream my father gave to me, and that is the American Dream my wife and I gave to our daughters and the American Dream they are giving to their children.
When the Dream is define by how much money a person has in their pocket today it is trivializes the American Dream. The American Dream describe in the Constitution is about a journey of opportunities and work strung together over a lifetime. This article sets the American Dream in the 1970s claiming what was then should be what is now, that fails to consider that America’s economy is always changing and the American Dream accommodates that dynamic. In the 1970s America was changing from leveraging hard work to leveraging knowledge. This change will affects everything from what knowledge and skills needed today to what a person can earn. The American Dream is not guaranteeing results, it is about opportunity, about freedom to choose, responsibility for working to gain the benefits of the opportunities. If this article had looked passed the pay and looked at the work then and now it would shown that that the same work then does not provide the same value today and the wages have changed accordingly. These changes have been happening throughout our history and it is providing for greater opportunities that include higher wages today. The difference is that the new jobs require more specialized knowledge and skills for those higher wages. Similarly the article should have include a mention that a wide range of college degrees aren't necessarily all providing the in demand knowledge/skills, that a college degree does not guarantee a high paying job or even a job.
My American Dream is that my children have the opportunity to make the life they want. My Dream is being achieved as our daughters through their efforts were able to establish their careers and fulfill their choices to create families, and their children will have the same opportunities and they are learning how working smarter and harder will help them to achieve the American Dream.
It is the individuals working to fulfill their American Dream is what has delivered the abundance that allows Mr. French and Mr. Glazer to narrow their vision of the American Dream to just how much money people have in their pocket and forget the opportunities and the individuals’ choices and sacrifice to use the opportunities part of the American Dream.

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 5:43pm

I hope your daughters can pay rent and gas with your spiritual definition of the America Dream. Redefining the dream from doing better to having the "opportunity" to do better is the same as redefining "everyone will have cheaper better healthcare" to "everyone will have the opportunity to buy healthcare". You are a propaganda victim.
Anatole France had a catchy saying about your "opportunity".
"In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread."

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 9:33am

This is kind of a bad comparison. What would've happened if he had gotten a factory job. Reporting is hard to get in to and there's lots of dues to pay. If your good, the payoff can be great. The Dad's vocation never had the same type of "upside" for a job well done.

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 8:16am

This article gets so many things wrong you don't where to start. It pushes some absurd leftist ideas that some occupations (journalists, librarians and factory workers) are entitled to make some given level of income, prestige and a position no matter how technology has made made many of them more and more irrelevant. That People should be entitled a given wage level no matter what their career choice because of their credentials only . The potter with an MFA must be paid the same as a CEO with a MBA - because after all they have advanced degrees!! There should be no penalty for picking or colleges offering garbage majors. It ignores the fact that we have millions of openings in occupations such as the construction trades, automotive and heavy equipment repair and service, others to numerous to list. These jobs are not subject to outsourcing, not going to be replaced by robots or AI! They have wages that can approach 6 figures, and shockingly to previous commenters don't require college degrees (along with student debt), and in most cases aren't represented by a union!!!! As we see immigrants arrive and succeed to fantastic degrees doing occupations that no one wants. The American Dream is intact here in Michigan and elsewhere maybe just not for the typical writer and commenters with this entitlement mindset that prevail so often here on Bridge.

Michigan Observer
Sun, 05/28/2017 - 4:07pm

What a relief it is to find someone who has a good grasp of reality. Matt is exactly right when he says, "This article gets so many things wrong you don't where to start."

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 2:03pm

Kevin Grand should scratch truck drivers off his list of jobs, as that job is also going away. Self Driving vehicles are already on the road.

Kevin Grand
Mon, 05/29/2017 - 12:17am

I wouldn't be so quick about that assessment, Waterboy.

And if that wasn't bad enough?

But, the best one yet...

Contrary to what the sales pitchmen continue to (try to) sell the public regarding autonomous vehicles, "driverless" vehicles aren't exactly ready for Prime Time yet. There is a lot more to driving a truck than just staying in your lane, getting off at the right exit and not hitting the vehicle in front you. If you want to feel adventurous, drive in the area around Farmers Market in Detroit (St. Aubin, Wilkins, Gratiot, 375/75) to get a better idea of what I mean.

After 60-some odd years of trying, there are still plenty of bugs to work out with just driving a car.

And I haven't even mentioned yet the legal Briar Patch of liability issues that have STILL haven't been resolved.

Operating an 80k # vehicle, along with the other things required with operating them that the public doesn't see, well that's another story entirely.

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 3:44pm

Hey People!
This is what the business- oriented press has preached since the days of Reagan: For American companies to be "competitive," they need to pay their workers less and their executives more.
Then, like Mitt Romney once said, in order to live "The Good Life," you need to borrow money from your well-heeled parents and start your own business.
Is anyone surprised now that per capita income is down? We've been preached to for years that The Third World is our future.

Paul Natinsky
Sun, 05/28/2017 - 7:45am

Good article. It seems to me, the real problem is not outearning previous generations, but the growing gap in wealth between the bulk of the population and the upper few percent, combined with, or perhaps resulting in near subsistence living for bright, hardworking young people.

Walking into an unskilled high-paying job was a bubble from the start. And those who forewent college, apprenticeships or other vocational training were fortunate not have the bubble burst when their family financial responsibilities were at their peak.

It would be interesting to know how our standard of living, present and generational, compares with other Western countries. I have friends who live in Germany, others who yearn to move back to England, but can't afford to, and have travelogue stories from friends who have visited Scandinavia. All report smaller cars, smaller--often rented--dwellings and a much more toned down approach to consumerism.

If the American Dream is to perpetually out earn previous generations, then it is a barren ethos by which we measure iurselves. If happiness cannot be obtained unless we earn more than or parents or friends or neighbors, what separates us from the boorish, unenlightened money grubbing of Donald Trump?

Michigan Observer
Sun, 05/28/2017 - 5:00pm

Mr. Natinsky says, "Good article. It seems to me, the real problem is not out earning previous generations, but the growing gap in wealth between the bulk of the population and the upper few percent, combined with, or perhaps resulting in near subsistence living for bright, hardworking young people." Yes, it is true the "upper few percent" do earn a large share of the income in this country ( and pay an even larger share of federal taxes), but does Mr. Natinsky have any evidence they didn't earn their income? That is, can he show that their high incomes resulted from successfully gaining unearned rents?

And can he show that their earning a lot of money caused other people to have low incomes? Isn't he engaging in the peasant mentality of assuming that the economy is a zero sum game? Could it be that some people have low incomes because they are not making a bigger contribution to the community? After all, there is a close relationship between an individuals contribution and what they earn.

Lorrie Frey
Sun, 05/28/2017 - 5:26pm

Paul and Matt questioned some assumptions in this article that are important. The Industrial Age Of factories produced varying degrees of wealth for citizens. The producers of wealth today are different. We need different skills and expectations. This is not to say that unequal distribution of wealth is not harmful to open democratic societies. It is. But another problem is what to do with billions of uneducated, unskilled people at the dawn of a new age......automation.

John Stutzer
Sun, 05/28/2017 - 9:54am

What would be most helpful: Less government - not more. Forget about raising taxes on business or reducing taxes on the "missing middle class". What would be the point of either? Cut taxes on the "missing middle class"? Raise taxes on the already struggling small business?

The best thing that could happen is for "government" meaning the Big Machine to stop standing on the places where things want to grow. Even in poor soil, given a chance, a seed will take root and grow. But not when there's a boot pressing down over the soil.

What we have now, is layer after layer of "we only want to help" bureaucracies putting stones in the paths of those who could achieve small business success (and I mean small from the kitchen table size upward). The need isn't for more to become white collar. The need isn't for more "incubator" cells - to spark growth.

The need is for government to simply "let" individuals grow their own specialty business without the government saying " you need this form, that form, this insurance, that insurance, and don;'t forget this permit, and that one two - and of course a license to...etc.

Only one observation from my past; There was a time when the parents would pack us kids in the Studebaker and go visit Grandma. Only the way, you could scarcely go a mile without seeing a roadside stand, a small shop offering chairs - the cottage with a sign in the window: "Haircuts - $1.25".

You who scoff and say, well that was then, we certainly can't go back to the Good Old Days - it's not going back - it's going forward.

Sidney Clouston
Sun, 05/28/2017 - 12:50pm

The Journalist should have became a Doctor and made his Father proud. Investment is flowing into Michigan. It b is looking better thanks to Trump.

New Generation
Sun, 05/28/2017 - 2:06pm

That first paragraph was so annoying to read because of the son's complaining(not the author).

First off, what is the bachelor's degree on? I dropped out of University going in 2 years and I own a home(paid off $50,000), my super-clean 1994 Cadillac Fleetwood, purchasing a 2015 Audi A7 next fall. I'm just recently turned 28 and I bought my first car at age 17, house at 25 years old. I was born/raised in Detroit and moved out when I purchased my house at 25.

The problem isn't Michigan or the "modern age." The problem is people expect to be entitled to the same income of their parent when the work industry is constantly changing. People need to learn to manage their money and not live beyond their means. Unless you're in Engineering or some 4 year degree that's actually going to make you money. It's hilarious people expect to simply spend thousands of dollars and expect to make alot of cash. Doesn't work that way. Schooling is also a business; unless you have a direction planned, don't kid yourself.

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 5:15pm

The middle class is largely a matter of economic policies--policies that an entire Wall Street generation eliminated--with the full collusion of the US Congress--for other people's kids.

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 9:01pm


Why are you so sure that the 'middle class' is only a financial state? Why doesn't include personal values, work ethic, a belief in oneself, hard work, self-discipline, thrift, honesty, hope and ambition.

I believe that people can be in the 'middle class' no matter their financial situation. There are people with great wealth that achieve that by applying their 'middle class value', there are people that are in difficult financial situations that will survive and even succeed because of the 'middle class values' they have.

Too many people can only see money and by being so short sighted they fail to see the individuals and how they contribute to society regardless of the money in their pockets.
I think this article is an example of such thinking.

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 1:29am

Generations of family members worked for Buick, in schools,
for cities and hospitals, earning solid wages, steady healthcare and comfortable pensions. I started work at 15, earned a college degree and after 45 years in the workforce NONE of those things are true for me. Michigan and the middle class in general have been robbed by the lie of "trickle-down" economics-- and the rich get richer because of it.

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 1:03pm

As George Carlin use to say; "It's called the amerikan dream, because you have to be asleep to believe in it"

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 5:34pm

Good article, childish comments. We need some adults running this state and this country. Our whole government declined when bipartisanship went out the window and bunch of whiny little narccicistic boys took over.

Michigan is in the state it is in due to a republican electorate who have used the same strategies for years and Michigan is now paying the piper. The outcomes we see are a direct result of policy decisions of the past, and most recently a "businessman governor" who was way over his head when he got the job and the results for Michigan residents have been tragic.

If certain commenters would look outside of their own little bubbles, they may see things as they are instead of through their own reality.

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 1:34pm

This is thanks to our Governor Rick Snyder who passed the ridiculous "right to work" laws in a lame duck session because he knew "the people" would not vote in favor of it.
They're all crooks

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 12:12am

At least he has a girlfriend and is living in a decent place Traverse City

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 8:43am

The disincentives for companies to raise wages grossly outstrip the incentives. This phenomenon has come about through deliberate policy making influenced by intensive lobbying by corporatist groups and free-market "think tanks".

Wall Street HAMMERS the stock value of companies who pay living wages and DEMANDS that companies offshore jobs and outsource tasks. All of the changes in tax structure over the last 35 years have been deliberate and systematic in driving wealth and income away from the worker to the shareholder and executives.

Government at all levels has been complicit in this effort - primarily because the way we fund campaigns and operate the electoral process. This has led to a government-engineered effort to devalue labor and drastically slash the influence of labor groups and advocates.

These have all been deliberate, well-planned and engineered CHOICES by our nation. We have CHOSEN poverty and inequality.

We have elected the impoverishment of our children and grandchildren.

Until that changes, don't expect any improvement.....

Mike B
Wed, 08/09/2017 - 8:32pm

You have a lot of people who have different degrees who leave the state to get ahead.

The example of the young man with a bachelors degree who chose to become a reporter is interesting and indicative; what if he decided to be an engineer, a software programmer, etc? If he loves being a reporter than so be it, he should be happy with his choice as he is doing what he wants to do.

There is too much income disparity and we have to be aware of it however the example you cite, to me, isn't a good one

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 6:15pm

The other side of the coin is that back in 1970, a high school grad could walk out of his/her graduation to the local industry, be it auto, steel or whatever and expect a life-long job. Now those jobs are in China, India or Viet Nam. Amazingly,offshoring these jobs didn't hurt the CEO pay scales at all.

Allan Blackburn
Fri, 11/10/2017 - 4:03am

If we continue to favor policies in this country and this state, to give more to the rich and expect it to trickle down to the rest of us, we have only ourselves to blame. When you give money to the absolute richest among us they hoard it and pass it on for generational wealth. When you favor more equitable policies that spread it around better it helps the economy. Money continuing to go to billionaires probably isn't going to be spent in your local economy. Giving a little more to the least of us means it goes to the local grocer for buying food thereby benefiting the person purchasing the food and the place they purchased it. Some of the comments here are stupid about what a person's labors are worth. You cannot tell me that a CEO who makes millions of dollars a year and over 1,000 times the amount of their employees, actually works harder or is worth more. It is like saying that a migrant farm worker should not get food stamps or government assistance because their employer chooses to pay them such a substandard wage. Try telling me that they don't work just as hard for their meager wage as any of the rest of us, or that their labor is not just as valuable. I am now retired yet I listen to my right wing friends talk about how difficult it is to get workers anymore. I wouldn't work for a lot of them either as they don't want to pay a decent salary. They certainly don't wish to pay a living wage which supports good housing, transportation and a quality of life of which I was able to enjoy in my working career. I travel a lot and I see our crumbling infrastructure and the poverty which exists here and I have no illusions about why people move elsewhere. I listen to one friend who exists on a wonderful pension, garnered through a union based teaching job. He has no concerns while his healthcare is covered and he lives a good lifestyle. Yet he supports nullifying the prevailing wage law which would mean that the cost of labor going downward to save tax payer dollars. He also wants to see an elimination of unions altogether. I've got mine; hope you get yours too. Using his logic we should do the same for the representatives who control our state. Maybe they aren't worth the salaries or benefits we are paying them either. Several of my other older friends are the same way. Maybe we need to focus on what makes us all a little more whole and realize that it benefits all of us.