In June 2015, Donald Trump rode down a golden escalator and declared, “The American Dream is dead.” Now, nearly five years on, Michael Strain has responded with The American Dream Is Not Dead (But Populism Could Kill It). Touché.
Strain, the director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, is one of the leading data-driven skeptics of populism. His approach is valuable. Our discourse ought to be grounded in an accurate set of facts, and Strain marshals plenty in The American Dream Is Not Dead. For example, a reader who may have believed that the average wage of non-supervisory and production workers had fallen since 1990 will learn that, in fact, adjusted for inflation using the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Personal Consumption Expenditures price index, the group’s average wage has increased by 34 percent.
But the American Dream is about more than average wage growth.