The Fight for the American Dream

Posted: Jan 24, 2011 4:37 PM
The Fight for the American Dream

Ever hear of the book Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25 and The Search for the American Dream, by Adam Sheppard?


This book chronicles a year in the life of Adam Sheppard; a college graduate who left home with the clothes on his back, $25 in cash and tried to carve a life in a random city, with the goal to be living in an apartment, owning a car and have $2,500 in cash.

But this book wasn’t just written for the sake of writing a book or experimenting with social science, it was written as a big middle finger to the doubters of the American Dream.

Here is what Sheppard says on his website:

Scratch Beginnings is my rebuttal to Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, a well-crafted yet inherently flawed study of the American Dream. What I did was start with $25 and the clothes on my back in a randomly chosen city out of a hat to see if, in one year, I could have $2,500, a car, and a furnished apartment.

A noble undertaking to be sure, but who exactly is Barbara Ehrenreich and what did she write in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not)Getting By In America?

Well, apparently Nickel and Dimed is a story highlighting the effect of 1996 welfare reform on the “working poor” of America and how they are the real “heroes” of our society.

Wow, lady… read Marx much?

And to say Ehrenreich leans a little to the left would be an understatement, here’s a short little snippet, just to give you an idea:

“When someone works for less pay than she can live on ... she has made a great sacrifice for you ... The "working poor" ... are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone. (p. 221)”

Her argument seems to be that the poor are powerless to change their living conditions, that they’re forced into their stations by the greed of others.

Which Adam Sheppard calls “Bulls#!t” with Scratch Beginnings… and I totally agree with him.

Now, I’m not going to spoil the ending of his book. So I’m not going to say whether or not he reaches his goal, but I will say this, this book should shut Ms. Ehrenreich up, maybe not for good, but definitely for a while.

My opinion? It’s not a question of not being able to rise from one station to the other. It’s a question of having the motivation to work hard to do so.

Now, I’m not naïve – I know that certain ethnicities and classes do start off at a disadvantage – but to say that these people are the “philanthropists of our society” is ludacris.

I would bet every dollar I have the given the choice, 99.9% of the people who live below the poverty level would rather have a solid roof over their head, money in their pocket and food on their table.

However, more often than not, people become “comfortable” with their lives, whether they’re up to standard or not.

And writing a book praising this lethargy is not only ridiculous, but it’s also dangerous.

Nobody should feel they’re place in life is a permanent. We have to fight every day to either stay where we are or rise above.

The moment you become complacent with your life, is the day the American Dream dies – for you – not the rest of us who choose to dust ourselves up and keep fighting.

Because for us, the American Dream is alive and kicking.