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When Americans who are the most victimized by our cruel economy still believe in something that is demonstrably no longer true, they are deeply delusional. They desperately want to believe in something once great about American society. The reality is that upward economic mobility has been destroyed, replaced by widely observable downward mobility. Some of the mostly younger jobless who have embraced the Occupy Wall Street and related Occupy efforts know the truth.

Consider the results of a new survey of unemployed adults this month:

"More than half of those polled said that they had experienced emotional or mental health problems like anxiety or depression because of their lack of work, and nearly half said that they had felt embarrassed or ashamed not to have jobs."

"More than a third said that they had had more conflicts or arguments with family and friends because of being jobless."

"Threats of foreclosure or eviction were reported by a fifth of the unemployed, and one in eight said that they had moved in with relatives or friends."

"More than half said that they lacked health insurance."

"A fifth said that they had received food from a nonprofit organization."

"Nearly two-thirds said they would probably not have enough money to live comfortably during retirement. More than half said that they had taken money out of savings or retirement accounts."

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"7 in 10 of those receiving unemployment benefits said that they feared their benefits would run out before they could find new jobs."

So far, all those results paint an unsurprising profile of unemployed, suffering Americans.  

Now, consider the result that blew my mind, the reason I am writing this, because more people need to understand something critical about delusional thinking that ultimately makes getting deep, sorely needed reforms of our government and political system extremely difficult. Without that our economy will stay awful, unfair, promoting even more economic inequality.

"Two-thirds of those surveyed said that they still believed it was possible to start out poor in this country, work hard and become rich -- only a little lower than the three-quarters of all Americans not in the unemployed category who held the same view and were surveyed at the same time."  In fact, considerable research in recent years has consistently found that upward mobility in the US is no longer a hallmark of the society. Indeed, there is more upward mobility in Canada and a number of European countries than in the US. Moreover, the jobless more than most should be able to comprehend the ugly reality that downward economic mobility is now a large part of American society.

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No surprise that the cover story on the new Time magazine is What Ever Happened To Upward Mobility? The basic theme of the article is that the US is no longer an "opportunity society." In other words, our country is no longer a place where everyone, if he or she works hard enough, can get ahead. But despite this reality, conservatives and Republicans love to publicly proclaim that the US still offers everyone upward economic mobility.

Those two-thirds of the unemployed will probably pay a steep price for their false optimism about their country. They are likely to fall prey to the political propaganda of either Democrats or Republicans. If they are delusional about the American Dream, are they also delusional about other things that may stand in the way of them getting a job? Rather than feel ashamed or embarrassed about being jobless, they should get some feedback from others so they can fix their thinking.

As Ezra Klein noted: "Americans are in the odd position of fervently believing in upward mobility while not actually having very much of it. Europeans, conversely, don't really believe in economic mobility but have plenty of it."

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Joel S. Hirschhorn is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. His current political writings have been greatly influenced by working as a senior staffer for the U.S. Congress and for the (more...)
 

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It is time for everyone to understand that the US ... by Joel Hirschhorn on Sunday, Nov 6, 2011 at 4:33:44 PM
Goods are too expensive and there is a low demand ... by David Chester on Tuesday, Nov 8, 2011 at 11:13:44 AM