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AARP The Magazine

Rob on the Road

The American Dream in Jeopardy

4 out of 5 adults have at one time or another used or needed the government safety net

Financial security for many of us is in jeopardy. In the wake of the slow recovery from the Great Recession, only about 20 percent of us are doing OK — including 1 percent who are doing really OK. The rest of us are struggling. A recent survey shows that four out of five adults have at one time or another used or needed the government safety net (unemployment, food stamps or other assistance).

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"I'm just trying to get to Friday," one AARP member told me.

This lopsided layering of haves and have-nots eats away at the promise of the American dream. So many of us say our greatest hope is to leave our children and grandchildren with a better and stronger America — a country where they can achieve more and soar higher. That hope gets harder to hang on to.

Even the social mobility we have always believed to be part of America's promise, the "hardworking poor kid makes good" ideal, is under siege. Americans today have a smaller chance of climbing from the lowest 20 percent of income to the top 20 percent than do people in several other wealthy countries, including the United Kingdom.

You might be wondering what all this has to do with AARP. It's simple: Taking action to expand opportunity and promote financial security for you and your family has always been at the heart of our mission.

AARP listens to you, then works to level the playing field — advocating for laws that protect workers from age discrimination; fighting to bring less expensive generic drugs to market faster; combating consumer fraud; strengthening Social Security and Medicare; providing resources to help you find a job, start a business and care for your loved ones.

It all comes back to these questions: What kind of country do we want? What will we do — together — to build it?

AARP members like you care passionately about improving the quality of life for their families, communities and nation. They choose to engage with life rather than retreat from it. AARP stands with you, making sure your voice is heard and the American dream lives on.

You are not alone.

Rob Romasco is the president of AARP.

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