How Utah Keeps the American Dream Alive
Economic mobility to rival Denmark’s, but without big government. Can the rest of the U.S. emulate Utah's success?
Columnists don’t talk as much as they used to about the American Dream. They’re more likely to talk about things like income mobility, income inequality, the Gini coefficient — sanitary, clinical terms. These are easier to quantify than a dream, but also less satisfying. We want money, yes, but we hunger even more deeply for something else: for possibility. It matters to Americans that someone born poor can retire rich. That possibility increasingly seems slimmer and slimmer in most of the nation, but in Utah, it’s still achievable.
The American Dream dies once those in power have to apply it to non-white people. When Conservatives realize that their social programs and government handouts will be utilized by more than just poor white people, they cinch the purse strings and pit the poor against each other. The poor white man forgets how poor they are as long as they still have someone to look down on, namely a poor Black man, and forget about the fact that their government should have been looking out for them all.
Utah is one of the whitest states in the country. What works there won’t work elsewhere because racism won’t allow it to and the only reason it has worked for so long in Utah (because there are a handful of states with a higher percentage of white people) is because Mormonism as a platform lends itself to social welfare more than your usual brand of American Evangelical Christian politics.