Aaron Jaffe was born to immigrant parents on the West Side of Chicago in 1930. A year later, the idea of the “American dream” came into vogue. It was the depths of the Great Depression, and Jaffe recounts that despite struggling through hard times, Americans still clung to the idea that everything was possible.
An American Worldview
Today, Jaffe explains, our national predicament
is in many ways similar, and Americans must recapture their individual and collective resolves – starting with a national conversation on how and why the American dream has become imperiled.
A Politics Not of the People
When Aaron Jaffe served seven terms in the Illinois House of Representatives, he met his constituents in their neighborhoods and ran his campaigns without big money. Jaffe explains how today’s unprecedented influence of moneyed interests on the political process, coupled with factors including the media shout-fest culture and the landmark Supreme Court decision that awarded free-speech rights to corporations, have served to distance Americans from their politics – and from the American dream.
No Easy Way Out
The national predicament that has confronted Americans since the start of the Great Recession in 2007 is directly tied to failed federal policies that spurred the housing and financial-market bubbles. From his bird’s-eye view as a regulator, Aaron Jaffe explains that in scenarios on the federal and state levels alike – the latter epitomized by the current push to expand the scope of legalized gambling in Illinois – our elected representatives and regulators do Americans no favors when they choose the easy way out over sound public policy.
Not So Easy Listening
The Honorable Aaron Jaffe (retired) draws on his 20 years experience as a Cook County Circuit Court judge to explain the perils of the listening deficit
that has taken root in American politics today:
When emotion overtakes reason, we expend resources we can’t afford. Those who think they are so powerful that they don’t have to listen to the
other side can be in for a rude awakening. When we throw up our hands and say our problems are too complex to understand, let alone solve, we dig ourselves deeper in the hole – and endanger our American dream.
Goodbye, American Dream?
In order to maintain the way of life to which many Americans have become accustomed, Aaron Jaffe argues, we can no longer be satisfied with the appearance of political change.
Americans must re-energize our political culture so that we can once again effect real change – from party politics to the caliber of candidates we elect to the policies they enact once in office.
Jaffe maintains that the American dream is worth fighting for, and that young Americans must be at the forefront of meeting that challenge. Only by coming to grips with the magnitude of what we stand to lose and by taking action will we be able to save the American dream.