The ailing American Dream

The American Dream—“work hard, play by the rules, and tomorrow will be better than today”—is not in good health, says David J. Lynch in USA Today. If it isn’t dead, “it’s at least wounded.” Polls show that most Americans now think they are treading water financially, or sinking. And they’re probably right: Median income has fallen every year since 2001. “It’s not as if there were no economic problems in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” but you could still get ahead then, “simply by working hard.” Now, not so much. Middle class living standards have “improved dramatically” in many ways since the post-World War II “golden age.” But the American “idea of continual improvement” is on life support.

The bad-news salad’s key ingredient

Of all the ingredients in the U.S. “salad bowl of sudden bad news,” says The Christian Science Monitor in an editorial, the “greatest economic threat” is inflation. The inflation argument so far has taken place mostly in the Federal Reserve, which can’t seem to decide when to raise interest rates to “beat back” rising prices. It should raise rates quickly. Inflationary expectations are propping up mortgage rates and gravity-defying oil prices, but sinking the U.S. dollar. The European Central Bank “has it right” in making inflation the top priority, and the U.S. Fed needs to take note. “The U.S. economy has enough underlying strength to bear the burden of higher interest rates,” but not high inflation.