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As a child, Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, had a vivid picture in his mind of what his American Dream would one day look like.
However, as he got older, not only did his dreams change— so did his understanding of the American Dream, his concerns for its future, and his plans to put the American Dream within grasp for more people around the nation.
Speaker Johnson recently sat down with Akash Chougule, AFP’s vice president of Government Affairs, and Scott Simon, AFP Louisiana state director, to discuss a variety of issues important to citizens — including the American Dream.
In their conversation Speaker Johnson provided AFP with answers to questions such as “what is the American Dream today?”
Here’s Speaker Johnson’s take.
Traditionally, the American Dream has meant something similar for many Americans. “If you are willing to work hard and play by the rules, you can make a better life for yourself and your children,” Speaker Johnson explained.
For Speaker Johnson, that meant the world was his oyster as a kid— anything was possible!
“My highest aspiration in life was to be the chief of the Shreveport Fire Department when I grew up because we grew up literally across the street from the fire and police training academy and I just thought that was the greatest thing ever,” he said.
While Speaker Johnson believes providing a better life for oneself and one’s family is a connecting force between just about every American and their American Dreams, the individual ways to get there are different for everyone. They even change for each person throughout their life. That was certainly true for Speaker Johnson.
“Being Speaker of the House was nothing I ever aspired to or thought would be possible but here we are.”
While his dreams changed, that wasn’t because he no longer found the American Dream achievable. He just found that he could do more than realize the American Dream for himself and his family. He felt compelled to support the journeys of others working to achieve the American Dream.
“I didn’t run for congress because I wanted a title. It’s not important to me,” Speaker Johnson explained. What’s important is maintaining this constitutional republic that we have.”
Speaker Johnson defined the American Dream as achieving a better life for self and family by having a willingness to work and follow the rules.
However, for many Americans, it has felt like those rules to play by have changed in recent years. The goal posts to reach the American Dream keep moving further and further away, and the idea of a “better life” seems less concrete. So, what is the American Dream today?
Speaker Johnson understands the confusion.
“It’s not achievable, it’s a dream beyond their grasp. We have to bring it back within their grasp.”
For Speaker Johnson, it’s not that the American Dream itself is any different today than in any previous period. Rather, it’s that bad politics has created a distant hope out of the American Dream rather than it being an achievable goal.
The American Dream is becoming more difficult for many to achieve because a middleman is standing in the way of Americans and their dreams of a better future for themselves and their families.
“Consumers can move with their feet, the market can adjust — but the government’s in the middle and impedes all of that,” he explained.
“The American Dream has been pulled further beyond the grasp of more people because they are being crushed by inflation, being crushed by American regulation, and then taxation.”
Speaker Johnson believes the American Dream would be as alive and well today as it was in the past if the government stepped out of the way.
“[Bidenomics] really has been the reason that the cost of living is so high, that you can’t afford to put gasoline into your pickup truck, and that– you know– your liberty and your opportunity are being reduced. It’s made it harder and harder for people to sort of broaden that pathway out of poverty and maybe make it up to the next rung on the ladder.”
The American Dream isn’t dead but, like the status of many things in our nation, it isn’t in great shape either.
“We’re only 270 years into [being a nation]. We don’t know how long it’s going to last. We’re facing serious headwinds right now – real challenges to the foundation of the country.”
However, Speaker Johnson pointed out that it wasn’t that long ago that the American Dream was well within grasp for most Americans.
“Right before COVID hit— you know, the first couple years of the Trump administration— we had achieved the greatest economy in the history of the history of the world. Not just the United States. Every single demographic— everybody was doing better. All boats were rising,” he explained.
“The reason is because we doubled down on those principles. We reduced regulations, we had the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we unburdened the free market and those who are the job producers, the risk takers, the entrepreneurs, and we allowed them to flourish and so everyone did better.”
However, it only took a few years for this time of greatness to be flipped on its head.
“Then the Biden administration comes in and they turn the dial exactly back the other direction,” Speaker Johnson explained. “They doubled down on taxation, regulation, big government as the solution to everything.”
So, is the American Dream dead now, even if it was thriving a few years ago?
Speaker Johnson doesn’t think so. He believes the American Dream can be revived with good policy. After all, a few years of bad policy can’t quite so easily wipe out a strong foundation of greatness and opportunity.
“We’re the strongest, most successful, most powerful, most benevolent nation in the history of mankind and the reason for that is because we were built on these sound foundations.”
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