Post Perspective: Who Stole the American Dream?

Contact: Shawna Seldon
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Indianapolis (June 24, 2013) — Over the past three decades, we have become Two Americas, sharply divided by power, money, and ideology. The economic crisis fractured national unity and split America into the “haves” and “have nots.” The July/August issue of The Saturday Evening Post examines the idea of the “American dream” and how it got lost, as only America’s oldest magazine can—through the perspective of its extensive archives, which date back to 1821.

According to Post contributor and best-selling author Hedrick Smith, “we are no longer one large family with shared prosperity and shared political and economic power, as we were in the decades following World War II.” While some emerged from the recession largely unscathed, others lost everything. Smith proposes several distinct changes in the U.S. economic system that created the chasm between these two Americas:

Dwindling Healthcare Coverage by Employers: In 1980, 70 percent of Americans who worked at big companies got health insurance coverage fully paid for by their employers. From the 80s onward, employers began requiring workers to cover an increasing portion of health costs. Other employers dropped company-financed health plans entirely, saying they could no longer afford them. The move resulted in big gains for company executives and stockholders but put the everyday worker at risk of financial turmoil.

Loss of Pensions: In 1980, 84 percent of Americans who worked at big companies were enrolled in lifetime pension plans financed by their employers. By 2006, that number had plummeted and only 33 percent were left with company financed pensions. The rest either got nothing or began funding their own 401(k) plans with a modest employer match. Some companies made billions by shutting down employee pension plans and shifting surplus assets to company profits.

Changes in Personal Bankruptcy: After Congress deregulated consumer lending in the 1970s and 1980s, the market was flooded with complicated, high-interest, and potentially dangerous credit products that were sold to consumers untutored in the fine print of credit fees and charges. Many sank into a quagmire of debt. Millions sought relief by filing bankruptcy. Banks and the financial industry then lobbied for legislation to tighten the terms for filing bankruptcy, which they received in 2005. Instead of curbing bankruptcy claims by “high-income deadbeats,” as the lobbyists claimed, the new rules created obstacles for honest, financially busted consumers in the middle class to protect their homes and assets.

Changes in the economy continue to widen the financial gap between the upper and middle classes. The time for the middle class to demand change is now, Smith says “We are at a defining moment for America. We cannot allow the slow, poisonous polarization and disintegration of our great democracy to continue.”

The full article from The Saturday Evening Post is available online at Additionally, learn more about America’s history of class divide through archived Saturday Evening Post articles spanning 1934-1952 online at


About The Saturday Evening Post: For nearly 300 years, The Saturday Evening Post has chronicled American history in the making—reflecting the distinctive characteristics and values that define the American way. Today’s Post continues the grand tradition of providing art, entertainment and information in a stimulating mix of idea-driven features, cutting-edge health and medical trends—plus fiction, humor, and laugh-out-loud cartoons. A key feature is the Post Perspective, which brings historical context to current issues and hot topics such as health care, religious freedom, education, and more.

Tracing its roots to Benjamin Franklin, The Saturday Evening Post mirrors cherished American ideals and values, most memorably illustrated by its iconic cover artist Norman Rockwell. The Post is also known for publishing such literary greats as Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allan Poe, J.D. Salinger, and Kurt Vonnegut, and continues to seek out and discover emerging writers of the 21st century.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, the Post is a publication of the nonprofit Saturday Evening Post Society, which also publishes the award-winning youth magazines Turtle, Humpty Dumpty, and Jack and Jill.

“As the nation changed, the Post changed, but it looks to its past as a fertile ground for its future”
—Starkey Flythe, Jr, Former Post Executive Editor