The Vanishing American Dream

Hardcover $28.00
216 pages
ISBN: 978-1-63331-044-5
Release date: September 22, 2020

Ebook $15.99
ISBN: 978-1-63331-045-2

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The Vanishing American Dream

A Frank Look at the Economic Realities Facing Middle- and Lower-Income Americans

Gene Ludwig

with Luke Bronin, Daryl Byrd, Oren Cass, Jacob Hacker, Glenn Hubbard, Heather Gerken, Susan Krause Bell, Andrea Levere, Zachary Liscow, Jonathan Macey, Daniel Markovits, Mary Miller, Michael Moskow, David Newville, Deval Patrick, Steven Pearlstein, Sarah Bloom Raskin, Isabel Sawhill, Jay Shambaugh, Robert Shiller, Anika Singh Lemar, Larry Summers, and Andrew Tisch

What had once been the American dream has become an elusive myth. But how can the economy report positive growth while so many suffer? And how do we reverse their trajectory?

The American Dream is perhaps our nation’s single commonly-held belief. It represents the opportunity to improve our economic standing generation upon generation, whether from poverty to comfort or beyond, with hard work. From Horatio Alger to Oprah Winfrey, the American Dream gives us collective hope.

The prevailing economic analysis for 2019 portrays a humming economy, one that should be able to support a path to prosperity for anyone willing to do their part. But in reality, traditional economic measures like the unemployment rate and GDP are masking a crisis for millions of lower- and middle-income families. For them, economic injustice has never been greater. They struggle to afford health care, housing, and education as they work jobs that cannot provide the chances they need to reverse this downward slide.

It’s easy enough to offer prosaic explanations for the decline of opportunity: Factories closed. Globalization pushed corporations to send the jobs overseas. Racism abounds. But for those who really want to understand what’s going on, those more superficial answers only prompt more thoughtful questions.

To begin to answer those questions, Gene Ludwig invited some of the most sophisticated minds from across the political spectrum to gather in a closed setting at Yale Law School in the spring of 2019. They included policy makers, journalists, academics, and business leaders—without media or scripts.

The Vanishing American Dream documents this rare, candid conversation and offers a forum on solutions to revive the Dream for all Americans.

"Gene Ludwig’s thoughtfully edited volume takes us closer to bipartisan consensus and solutions. With contributions from conservative thought leaders, academics, journalists, former Democratic governors, and others, The Vanishing American Dream outlines the problem and reaches consensus across ideological disagreements: Our economy is not working for a vast portion of the population."

Senator Mark R. Warner (D–VA)

"The Vanishing American Dream shines a bright light on how crucial it is that we find a way to achieve more broadly shared opportunity and hope and offers strategies that, with a modicum of political comity, should be achievable. The challenge ahead is for business and political decision makers to take this message to heart."

Jack Lew, Former Secretary of the Treasury

"Gene Ludwig’s insightful new book raises timely questions that reveal inconvenient truths about an economic system that is increasingly leaving entire communities behind. The fragile financial foothold of so many—especially black and Latinx— Americans should be concerning to all given what it portends for an interconnected economy based on notions of economic fairness and equal opportunity. The Vanishing American Dream makes a compelling case for policymakers to reexamine traditional analyses of economic indicators that cloud our understanding of the troubling realities facing middle- and lower-income families across our nation today."

Wayne Frederick, President of Howard University

"Gene Ludwig’s book is very much worth reading. The issues raised in the book are timely and important. To address the problems the book so clearly highlights, it’s my view that income growth and inequality for low- and moderate-income Americans can only be solved by strong GDP growth and a dynamic market economy. The history of other programs, however well-meaning, are much less effective, if at all."

Alan Greenspan, Former Chair of the Federal Reserve of the United States

"In this book, Gene nails the inequality equation by compiling thoughtful, credentialed solutions to address our country's pervasive economic problems. Gene and his cohorts advance ideas that are pragmatic, doable, and capable of building a broad, bipartisan consensus. As Gene himself might say, ‘Let’s get on with it to get it done.’"

Ken Duberstein, Chief of Staff to President Ronald Reagan

"Gene Ludwig has eloquently captured the struggle of so many American communities to realize the American dream for a new generation. In tracing the economic decline of vibrant industrial towns, he asks the hard questions about technology, globalization, the role of government, trade, our educational system, and corporations. He and the extraordinary group of assembled experts force us, with data and insightful analysis, to confront the inequality of our system. But, they also offer solutions at the local level that every businessperson, politician, and policymaker should consider in building a more prosperous future for all Americans."

Mary Schapiro, Former Chair of the SEC

"The United States middle class is shrinking and the stressed underclass is growing. Income inequality is worsening and fracturing our country. This vital book has gathered the best minds to seek answers—both causes and remedies. For those who care, this is urgent required reading."

Senator Don Riegle (D–MI; 1976–1994) and former Chair of the Senate Banking Committee

"This book is a call to arms. We must refocus to ensure the American Dream is available to future generations by creating more collaborations, more public-private partnerships, and investing in our infrastructure to get the job done."

Sandy Weill, Chairman Emeritus, Citigroup, Inc.

"To help bring America together and identify the actions needed to rekindle a vigorous middle class, Gene Ludwig convened an extraordinary bipartisan, diverse group of participants with deep knowledge drawn from academia, policy formation, government, business, and community leadership. This is a highly readable action guide to doing the always unfinished work of forming a more perfect union and should be widely read."

Mary Houghton and Ron Grzywinski, Co-founders of ShoreBank
Gene Ludwig

About The Author

Gene Ludwig is the founder of the Promontory family of companies and Canapi LLC, the largest financial technology venture fund in the United States. He is the CEO of Promontory Financial Group, an IBM company, and chairman of Promontory MortgagePath, a technology-based mortgage fulfillment and solutions company. He is the former vice chairman and senior control officer of Bankers Trust New York Corp, served as the United States comptroller of the currency from 1993 to 1998 under President Bill Clinton, and was a partner at Covington & Burling from 1981 to 1992.

In 2019, The Ludwig Family Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization founded by Mr. Ludwig and his wife, Dr. Carol Ludwig, created a new program, The Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP), dedicated to improving the economic well-being of lower-income Americans through research and education. The LISEP program is focused on better understanding and disseminating relevant data and policy recommendations intended to expand meaningful, high-wage opportunities for such individuals.

His writing has appeared in The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, American Banker, and Time. He holds a master’s degree from Oxford University and is a New College Oxford fellow. He holds a JD from Yale University, where he was editor of the Yale Law Journal and chairman of Yale Legislative Services.

Gene lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Dr. Carol Ludwig. They have three children and two dogs who run the household.

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