Poll: The 'American Dream' is fading

A family eats a meal outside a house. Is the "American dream" moving out of reach?

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

What exactly is the "American dream"?

It's likely different for every American, but probably includes things like a nice home, the ability to provide for your children and something about the "pursuit of happiness", as the Declaration of Independence puts it.

Whatever exactly the American dream is, it seems that many Americans think it's getting further away.

A recent poll conducted by ORC International for CNNMoney has found that 59% of Americans think the "American dream" is out of reach.

Possibly more depressing, only 25% of Americans said that they have "achieved the American dream". And only 34% of respondents think most children "will grow up better off" than their parents.

"The pessimism is reflective of the financial realities a lot of families are facing," Erin Currier, director of the Economic Mobility Project at Pew Charitable Trusts, told CNN. "They are treading water, but their income is not translating into solid financial security."

Yahoo's Rick Newman isn't so convinced, however.

"Ready to give up?" he asks. "Hopefully not, because polls such as this routinely overstate the horrors America will face in the future."

He says Americans have been through tough times in the past, but they always seem to get through it better off than they were before.

If we characterise the "American dream" as the opportunity to achieve, then it is "very much alive", he writes.

"People willing to go where opportunity is and gain the skills companies are willing to pay for can get ahead much easier than most could during the Great Depression," he says.

"If you believe that dream represents easy living and a manicured pathway to success, then it probably is dead," he concludes. "But if you're willing to keep trudging forward and fighting for opportunity, no matter what happens, then you're following in the footsteps of many successful Americans."

Ah, yes, the American dream - a long, hard slog where, if you're lucky and persistent, you can find success.

United Kingdom

Oratorical glory or pointless tradition? -- Under a cloud of pomp and circumstance, the Queen delivered her traditional speech at the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday, motivating JC from the Economist's Blighty Blog to question the tradition's very existence.

"The monarch's address at the start of a new legislative session is the biggest waste of time," JC writes. "The pointlessly traditional artifice, the gaudy distractions, the lack of substance - why do Britons put up with it all?"

The Queen's Speech, which is meant to announce new policies and legislative plans, "is not even useful to the government of the day", JC writes, as it compels ministers to "come up with things to announce regardless of whether they want or need to do so".

Even if changes to royal traditions, such as the Speech, could benefit the current British political system, however, JC concludes that "the cold, dead hand of tradition smothers new ways of running Westminster, making them unthinkable".

Russia

The new Eurasian frontier - Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine could open up a Pandora's Box for Eurasian states, write Denis Corboy, William Courtney and Kenneth Yalowitz for the National Interest.

"Russia has put all of Eurasia on edge," they argue. Russia's Eurasian neighbours "now wonder which of them could be the next Kremlin target. All have economic links with their big neighbour".

The best way that Eurasian states can protect themselves is "to improve their own conditions", they assert. "Accelerating democratic and economic reforms is most important and will increase foreign-investor interest."

With the upcoming drawdown of Nato forces from Afghanistan, they say that Central Asian countries in particular worry that the West will "lose interest in their fate and leave them more exposed".

"Most of Russia's neighbours want more Western help in balancing Moscow's political and military power," they conclude.

Nigeria

How to bring back the girls - If Nigerian troops are unable to overrun the Boko Haram kidnappers holding the missing school girls, the government should consider a prisoner swap, writes Habib Yakoob for Nigeria's the Vanguard.

"Refusing to agree to the swapping demand of the terrorists is only meaningful and wise if the military troops would move into the Sambisa forest or wherever the terror agents are, overrun them and get our girls back without exposing them to much fatality," writes Yakoob. "If this is unrealisable, it is only sensible and humane to allow this exchange to take place."

The Boko Haram militants, he asserts, "know that the primary reason for deploying the military into their enclave is to rescue the girls". So if they release the girls without the government meeting their demands, this "would mean that the abductors have failed in their mission", which could lead to the eventual killing of their hostages, he says.

"Our basic priority now should be how to save these children first," he writes. "And the earlier we understand this approach the better for us all."

Iran

Iran should build alliance with the Persian Gulf states - Despite Iran's historically tense relationship with its neighbours in the Persian Gulf, the region would benefit from an alliance, writes Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi for Arab News.

Since the establishment of the Iranian republic in 1979, the nation's doors have remained relatively closed to regional partnership. In recent years, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration only "contributed to heightening political polarization in the region", he says.

"Iran, now under Hassan Rouhani, has a chance to play a positive role in bringing peace and stability to the region," he writes.

With Iran's shared geography and religion, Iran is "an ideal partner for Gulf nations", he asserts.

"The cost of not forging an alliance would be extremely high. It is, therefore, necessary for politicians, journalists and religious scholars to put aside their sectarian feuds and seek unity for the benefit of the region's development."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

The early morning Syrian TV bulletin on Thursday was dropped in favour of recorded footage of newly re-elected President Bashar al-Assad accompanied by patriotic songs, while pro-Syria Iran state TV reported celebrations across Syria over the election results. In Syria, two government-owned papers supported the "people are dancing in streets" line, but a Jordanian daily and a pan-Arab daily were more realistic.

"The packed polling stations, despite dubious statements by Western leaders, is evidence that the Syrian state, empowered by the people, cannot be shaken by mortar rounds or statements by the enemies of peoples, democracy and international legitimacy." - Muhi al-Din al-Muhammad in Syria's government-owned Tishrin.

"Syria is writing history no other can write, and is drawing lines in politics no other can draw. It is wrapping up chapters and opening others marked by a strong will, steadfastness, challenge and determination to carry on with the confrontation in crucial national choices expressed through the people's decision to elect Dr Bashar al-Assad a president with an absolute majority." - Editorial in Syria's government-owned al-Thawrah.

"The majority of Syrians are keen on restoring security and stability in their country. These people should not be regarded as pro-regime or pro-opposition... They essentially are voting for Syria even if they vote for Mr Assad and even if they refrain from voting... These people have come to the following conclusion: Many of Mr Assad's opponents are worse than him." - Urayb al-Rintawi in Jordan's Al-Dustur.

"There are people who voted for Bashar al-Assad because of sectarianism, others voted due to fear for their personal safety, [while others voted for him] just for their interests. There are those abroad who voted to renew their passports… It's a vote, like tens before it in Syria, where voters are used to leaving their conscience outside the polling stations to save themselves from the aggression of this regime... The outcome of the vote here is not the victorious president, but continued oppression." - Abd-al-Wahab Badrkhan in Saudi-owned al-Hayat. ‎

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