ILLUSIONS OF OPPORTUNITY: The American Dream in Question by John E. Schwarz

ILLUSIONS OF OPPORTUNITY: The American Dream in Question

Email this review


An academic's arresting appraisal of what he deems a serious lack of employment' opportunity in a booming domestic economy. Drawing mainly on statistical data, Schwarz (coauthor of The Forgotten Americans, 1992, etc.) makes a persuasive case for the proposition that there's a serious shortage in the US of adequate jobs--defined as full-time, year-round positions that provide base-line compensation or better (at least $7.60 per hour in 1994 dollars). All told, he concludes, the gross deficit of jobs that pay an adequate (i.e., living) wage aggregates 15.7 million. In the author's book, this shortfall puts paid to any comforting notion that America is a land of opportunity in which the industrious can get ahead and provide their families with basic necessities (which include medical care and recreation). He goes on to note that breadwinners who can't make ends meet are neither unskilled nor uneducated; indeed, two-thirds are high-school graduates and one-third have at least some college. Arguing that an affluent society owes its working poor a helping hand, Schwarz (Political Science/Univ. of Arizona) proposes a series of government actions to offset the economy's persistent inability to generate enough good jobs and make the needy employed minimally self-sufficient. Among other initiatives, he recommends: indexing the minimum wage so it could not fall below 47 percent of the average pay of nonsupervisory personnel; expanding earned-income tax credits on a sliding scale; subsidizing private enterprises that allocate profits to creating new jobs at above-average rates; enhancing employment opportunity in the public sector; providing health-care coverage to the working poor; and establishing apprenticeship programs. The author also offers suggestions as to how these efforts might be underwritten. A timely reminder that the blessings of America's good times remain unequally distributed.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0393973913
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Norton