This is an archived version of the original website. Read our disclaimer.

The American (Bad) Dream

Wall Street Fat CatThe American Dream expresses the aspiration for a “better, richer, and happier life.”


The minimum wage in New York currently stands at just under $15,000 and the national average wage stands at about $31,500. By contrast it is forecast (NY Times, July 15) that Goldman Sachs employees “could on average, earn roughly $770,000 each this year or nearly what they did at the height of the boom.” This average includes every banker, trader, mailroom and janitor at the firm, or over 50 times as much as the minimum wage or nearly 25 times the national average wage.

Interesting to note, too, that Goldman Sachs paid out $4.8 billion in bonuses in 2008, a year when profits only totaled $2.3 billion. Getting paid more for making less is what happened in a year when the company received $10 billion of taxpayers money, even though it has since repaid the Government on our behalf. This would seem to be bad business and more like an American Bad Dream, than a good one.

At least 4,793 bankers and traders were paid more than $1 million in 2008 NY Times, July 30), or more than 30 times the national average annual wage. Put another way, more than 1,000 times as much as the poorest three billion people on the planet who live on less than $2.50 a day (World Bank Development Indicators 2008). In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5% and the gap is widening.

To put this in some perspective, consider the global priorities in spending in 1998:

Global Priority $U.S. Billions
Cosmetics in the United States 8
Ice cream in Europe 11
Perfumes in Europe and the US 12
Pet foods in Europe and the US 17
Business entertainment in Japan 35
Cigarettes in Europe 50
Alcoholic drinks in Europe 105
Narcotics drugs in the world 400
Military spending in the world 780

And compare that to what was estimated as additional costs to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries:

Global Priority
$US Billions
Basic education for all 6
Water and sanitation for all 9
Reproductive health for all women 12
Basic health and nutrition 13

Do these figures suggest what happens in the US financial sector has any morality? They rather suggest that we are living an American Bad Dream one one that corrupts us all by ignoring the stark realities.

PLEASE NOTE: There is tons of useful stuff on Startup Owl, a site that’s been going for a dozen years. So keep browsing, but know that the founder, Will, now devotes most of his time and energy to his new website that you should definitely visit:

Leave a Comment