The USA has always been known as the land of plenty, a place of wealth and opportunity. Yet for Americans things have hit rock bottom, with the situation looking almost as bad as it did in the 1930s depression era. The American middle class would be considered well off by European standards. Their yearly income is between 40,000 and 120,000 dollars. And yet they are struggling more than anyone else in the US to meet their daily living expenses.
There will be more children in the US this year with bankrupt parents than divorced parents. With around 120,000 people declared bankrupt each month, many of the squeezed middle-class see the American dream slipping away.
"Our national myth is changing", explains author and journalist Thomas Hartmann. Whereas hard work was once seen as the route to prosperity in the US, nowadays the best most people can hope for is a lottery win. Three generations of farmers in Vermont ring the changes of the past fifty years. Doug Lyford remembers that his parents never argued about money: "There were five of us and we all went to college. No farmer could afford that any more". Disenchanted with the mainstream politicians, who have not done enough to help them, many are turning to the traditionalist Tea Party. For others, such as bicycle shop manager Anthony Laskaris, hard times are only to be expected: "this is the effect of globalisation: our living standards go down a little, so that others' can rise".