Myths That Are Destroying America

Myth #1: In America, Everyone Has A Chance To Have A Decent Life

May 24, 2017 · 5 min read

By David Grace (

This is a lie. In America many decent, hard-working people have no chance for a decent life.

What Qualities Do Winners Have?

Let’s consider the personal traits that lead to success:

People in the top 25% of intelligence, determination, talent, personality and positive cultural values have a good chance of success in America.

The people in the bottom 25% are similarly likely to fail.

I want to focus on the 50% of the population in the middle.

The Key Factor Allowing The Average Person To Have A Decent Life Is The Availability Of A Good-Paying Job

If you’re in the middle 50%, just an average person, whether you succeed or fail in America is almost entirely determined by whether or not you can get a good-paying job.

If you’re in the middle 50% and you don’t have access to a good-paying job, then you have almost no reasonable chance at having a decent life.

Yes, there are undoubtedly extraordinary people who can overcome adversity and succeed. Someone with great drive and determination can claw their way up from poverty, but, by definition, those people aren’t in the middle 50%.

By definition, people in the middle have average, ordinary drive and determination.

And it’s the ordinary people were talking about here.

We’re taking about the people in the middle of the pack.

We’re talking about the B- C+ high-school graduates.

We’re talking about the guys who, sixty years ago, got up every morning, went to the plant or the mill or the mine, worked at an unskilled, mindless job and were paid enough to buy a little house and a second-hand car and maybe take their family to the ocean for a week each summer.

Those B-minus, unskilled, high-school graduates are still out there but the jobs that paid them a decent living right out of high school are not.

It All Comes Down To Family

Family Cultural Values

If that ordinary, middle-of-the-pack guy is born into a family that instilled in him positive cultural values — work hard, don’t give up, save for the future, follow the rules — he’s not going to be in the middle of the pack. He will be at the top because he was lucky enough to be born into a family that ingrained those values in him.

If that ordinary, middle-of-the-pack guy is born into a family that taught him no cultural values or weak cultural values — don’t do anything you don’t have to, find a short cut, live for today, rules are for suckers — he’s pretty much doomed from the start.

Family Supported Training

If you’re in the middle of the pack and you were born into a family that can afford to pay for the training you need to get a good-paying job AND ALSO if you were born into a family that can afford to feed you, house you and clothe you while you’re being trained, then you’ve got a reasonable chance to succeed.

If you’re in the middle of the pack and you were born into a family that can’t afford to support you while you’re being trained and can’t afford to pay for the training then you’re finished.

And before you talk about borrowing twenty or thirty or forty thousand dollars to get trained as a nurse or an HVAC technician or a machinist, one of the biggest scams in America is the for-profit education industry.

Today student-loan debt stands at $1.3 Trillion. 7 million of the 44 million borrowers are in default, and the average debt is over $37,000. The average Joe Sixpack cannot borrow his way out of poverty.

And we haven’t even considered the numbers of ordinary people who don’t have the intelligence or the talent to be able to be trained to hold a good-paying job.

No matter how much training you give them, most of the people in the middle will never be able to professionally write software code, plan a social-media advertising campaign, be a product designer, or an HR manager.

Why This Myth Is Toxic

If it were true that all ordinary people have a real chance to earn a decent life then the people on the top could safely blame everyone on the bottom for being poor. And that’s what many of them do.

If this myth were true then people fail because of their own flaws and they don’t deserve any help or sympathy.

The myth that everyone has a chance at success legitimizes the success of those on the top and demonizes the failure of those on the bottom.

This myth is how Republicans can blithely simultaneously support tax cuts for the rich and food stamp cuts for the poor.

If you believe this myth then the rich deserve more money and the poor deserve to starve.

It’s a modern take on the old Calvinist philosophy: People are successful because God is rewarding them and people are failures because God is punishing them.

If you’re successful that means that you’re a good person. If you’re a failure that means you’re a bad person.

Therefore rich people deserve to be rich and poor people deserve to be poor and it would be wrong to take any money from the rich to feed the poor because you would be thwarting God’s plan to reward goodness and punish evil.

The Republicans have eagerly adopted this philosophy, only substituting their God, the Market, in place of Calvin’s God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

What Is The Truth?

The truth is that the ordinary, everyday Joe or Jane Sixpack has essentially no chance at having a decent life unless he/she can get a decent-paying job.

Today, getting a decent-paying job almost universally requires that the ordinary person be part of a family that has enough money to support and train them to get that decent-paying job AND ALSO that there is such a decent-paying job available for them at all.

In America, ordinary people in the middle of the pack are poor not because they don’t want to work but because there are no good-paying jobs available for them, and all the tax cuts for rich people in the world aren’t going to change that.

–David Grace (

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Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 17 novels and over 200 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.

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