Who Wants to Be a Millionaire:
Changing Conceptions of the American Dream

by Matthew Warshauer

Traditionally, Americans have sought to realise the American dream of success, fame and wealth through thrift and hard work. However, the industrialisation of the 19th and 20th centuries began to erode the dream, replacing it with a philosophy of "get rich quick". A variety of seductive but elusive strategies have evolved, and today the three leading ways to instant wealth are large-prize television game shows, big-jackpot state lotteries and compensation lawsuits. In this article, Matthew Warshauer, Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University, examines why so many Americans are persuaded to seek these easy ways to their dream.

 

American Studies Today Online

Posted 13/02/2003

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Exhibit 1

The "Reinventing Government" Report Card

Category

Grade

Comments

Downsizing

B

Accomplished the goal, but planning to match the downsized workforce with agency missions was weak.

Identifying objectives of government

D

The NPR sought in 1995 to focus on what government should do—but the effort evaporated as the Republican threat faded.

Procurement reform

A

Fundamental transformation of procurement system. Some vendors complain, but the system is far more efficient than it was.

Customer service

B+

Great progress in some agencies, but major failures in othersnotably the IRS.

Disaster avoidance

B-

Substantial efforts in many agencies, notably FEMA. Spectacular failures in others, notably the IRS. The big test: the Y2K problem.

Political leadership

C+

Consistently strong leadership from the top but inconsistent below. Federal workers have gotten mixed signals.

Performance improvements

C+

Linkage of NPR with the Government Performance and Results Act is inconsistent.

Improved results in "high-impact" programs

INC

Good strategy—but likelihood of achieving goals is low.

Service coordination

INC

Efforts to improve the coordination of service delivery are embryonic.

Relations with Congress

D

Efforts to develop legislative support for NPR initiatives have, with the exception of procurement reform, been weak and ineffective. Support from Congress: poor.

Improvements in citizen confidence in government

C

The steady slide in public trust and confidence in government has ended, but that has more to do with a healthy economy than improved government performance.

Inspiration from other governments, private-sector reforms

B-

Wide survey of other ideas—but more a grab-bag of options than a careful analysis of which ones fit federal problems.

Effort

A+

No administration in history has invested such sustained, high-level attention to management reform efforts.

OVERALL GRADE

 

B

Substantial progress made over first five years, but much more work lies ahead. Successive administrations will have little choice but to continue the NPR in some form.

1

Back to

Exhibit 1

The "Reinventing Government" Report Card

Category

Grade

Comments

Downsizing

B

Accomplished the goal, but planning to match the downsized workforce with agency missions was weak.

Identifying objectives of government

D

The NPR sought in 1995 to focus on what government should do—but the effort evaporated as the Republican threat faded.

Procurement reform

A

Fundamental transformation of procurement system. Some vendors complain, but the system is far more efficient than it was.

Customer service

B+

Great progress in some agencies, but major failures in othersnotably the IRS.

Disaster avoidance

B-

Substantial efforts in many agencies, notably FEMA. Spectacular failures in others, notably the IRS. The big test: the Y2K problem.

Political leadership

C+

Consistently strong leadership from the top but inconsistent below. Federal workers have gotten mixed signals.

Performance improvements

C+

Linkage of NPR with the Government Performance and Results Act is inconsistent.

Improved results in "high-impact" programs

INC

Good strategy—but likelihood of achieving goals is low.

Service coordination

INC

Efforts to improve the coordination of service delivery are embryonic.

Relations with Congress

D

Efforts to develop legislative support for NPR initiatives have, with the exception of procurement reform, been weak and ineffective. Support from Congress: poor.

Improvements in citizen confidence in government

C

The steady slide in public trust and confidence in government has ended, but that has more to do with a healthy economy than improved government performance.

Inspiration from other governments, private-sector reforms

B-

Wide survey of other ideas—but more a grab-bag of options than a careful analysis of which ones fit federal problems.

Effort

A+

No administration in history has invested such sustained, high-level attention to management reform efforts.

OVERALL GRADE

 

B

Substantial progress made over first five years, but much more work lies ahead. Successive administrations will have little choice but to continue the NPR in some form.

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