The death of the American dream

The news from the housing market this week is bad. Really bad. House prices today are lower in most of the country than they were in the dismal month of April 2009; we are now in the second dip of the double dip housing downturn.

This doesn’t just mean that President Obama’s re-election is in trouble. It doesn’t just mean that stocks and the dollar may fall. It doesn’t just mean that unemployment will stay high for a while and that whole economy may follow the housing market back into the tank for a second recession.

It means something bigger. For eighty years we have defined the American dream as an owner occupied family home, preferably with a nice swathe of crabgrass-free lawn around it. The home mortgage was the centerpiece of a society of consumers based on debt-financed living. It was life on the installment plan. The latest downturn in the housing market is one more grim signal that in its current form, the American Dream is going the way of the dodo.