End of the American Dream?

Here’s some happy news from Walter Russell Mead:

Today some 86 million Americans live in homes that are ‘under water’ where the amount owed on the mortgage is greater than the value of the house. Since the financial crisis began in 2008, over one million consumer mortgages have gone into foreclosure. Sales of bank-owned properties are now 34.5 percent of the housing market; homes in foreclosure waiting for resale now account for a three years-supply on the sluggish housing market.

It’s a fairly bleak assessment of our current situation, but with a deeper foundation of hope in the American people: “Slowly and reluctantly, the country will have to move on. … it’s going to hurt, and it’s going to deepen the sense among many Americans that something has gone terribly wrong.” We won’t like it, but we’ll do it.

The broader question about the end of the American Dream (or Dream 2.0) is the same sort of gloomy analysis that I found in Tyler Cowen’s The Great Stagnation, which I read because of the Business Week profile (and because I wanted to try reading an e-book).

I don’t know what to think. I lived through the 70’s, when everything was rotten, but it eventually got better. I grew up reading science fiction and watching Star Trek. My first career was in computers, where everything is twice as fast as last year’s model. I can go along with the bitter-medicine thinking of Mead, but I’m not ready (yet) to swallow Cowen’s low-hanging fruit.

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