When the American Dream is Unattainable

The United States averted the most dire predictions about what the pandemic would do to the housing market. An eviction wave never materialized. The share of people behind on mortgages, after falling steadily for months, recently hit its pre-pandemic level.

But a comprehensive report on housing conditions over the past year makes clear that while one crisis is passing, another is growing much worse.

Like the broader economy, the housing market is split on divergent tracks, according to the annual State of the Nation’s Housing Report released on Wednesday by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. While one group of households is rushing to buy homes with savings built during the pandemic, another is being locked out of ownership as prices march upward — and those who bore the brunt of pandemic job losses remain saddled with debt and in danger of losing their homes. The New York Times (By Conor Dougherty and Glenn Thrush)

Analysis: So, what happens when you work two jobs and still can’t afford to own or even rent a home? That seems to be the problem right now in the U.S. housing market. Some people are simply priced right out of the market. And that’s a problem. How can the “American Dream” take shape in people’s lives if they can’t even have a place of their own? Or was the American Dream an illusion all along?

Problem is, in a recession, things turn upside down and prices on normal, everyday things get weird. A recession was predicted; we knew it was coming. You can’t send people home and shut down factories, shops, and businesses without some fallout. Even with the government subsidies to hold things in place, we’re seeing the results of economic shutdown and subsequent start-up. Supply and demand usually keep things balanced, but it takes time for the system to work. If supply is short and demand is high, prices will invariably shoot up.

Problem is wages and salaries have not kept pace with the pricing index on goods and services. Inflation wreaks havoc on people’s bank accounts. And a suitable place to live in a suitable price range is simply not possible for some people – a lot of people – when that happens. That’s where we’re at right now in the United States; it’s the same problem in other developed nations, too. Look for the problem to get worse, much worse, before it gets better.

Biden and Putin to Meet

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have arrived on Wednesday at the lush lakeside Swiss mansion for their highly anticipated summit, a moment of consequential diplomacy at a time when both leaders agree that relations between their countries are at an all-time low.

The two leaders shook hands while appearing briefly before cameras with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, who welcomed them to Switzerland, and then entered the mansion for what is expected to be four or five hours of talks.

For months, they have traded sharp rhetoric. Biden has repeatedly called out Putin for malicious cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers on U.S. interests, a disregard for democracy with the jailing of Russia’s foremost opposition leader, and interference in American elections.

Putin, for his part, has reacted with whatabout-isms and obfuscations — pointing to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to argue that the United States has no business lecturing on democratic norms and insisting that the Russian government hasn’t been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks despite U.S. intelligence showing otherwise. AP News (By Aamer Madhani, Jonathan Lemire and Vladimir Isachenkov

Analysis: Joe and Vladimir have a lot to talk about. Not much will be resolved in this four-to-five hour chat session, but the ice will be broken and the two world leaders, as far as anyone knows, will have talked things over and addressed the issues. And that’s a big deal when it comes to mediating national differences. I can tell you, in all my graduate-level studies in conflict resolution, one thing was clear, the initial hurdle in mediation is getting the combatants to the table.

The January 6 insurrection in the United States erased over 220 years of its democratic superiority on the global stage. We knocked ourselves off the pedestal and with it, the ability to lead by example. Now we’re just like everyone else and people know it! So, Putin is right, the United States has no business lecturing anyone about democratic norms.

Games of semantics take place in these discussions. Putin has been saying for months that his government is not involved in cyberattacks or election interference. He’s right; the cyberattacks and interference were orchestrated by an outside group chosen and supported by the Russian government, but not the government itself. Gotta maintain that level of deniability! It’s the first thing they teach you in ‘global leadership’ classes!

Nothing will be resolved in this summit discussion. But it’s good to see some face-to-face action by the two leaders. Despite losing its position on the democratic highroad, the United States’ influence regarding freedom and democracy on the world stage is still pervasive. Joe Biden is doing a decent job restoring what was lost with the last guy. Putin knows there’s a new sheriff in town.

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